Congress action sought on slow onset climate threat to Philippines

A climate policy group released today a groundbreaking report that implored the House of Representatives to "act decisively in response to slow onset and potentially irreversible climatic impacts threatening poor Filipino communities."

Commissioned by the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC), the report titled "Slow Onset Climate Change Impacts: What It Is, Why Should We Care, and What We Can Do About It," was launched at the House of Representatives in packed event co-organized with the Congressional Policy Budget and Research Department.

Regina Abuyuan, the journalist commissioned to produce the report, noted "the stark difference between climate change-induced episodic disasters, which Filipinos are more familiar with, versus slow onset events. The latter involves rising sea levels and increased or reduced precipitation that does not lead to severe flooding or extreme drought but which could permanently decimate entire agricultural regions in the long run. Yet we know so little about the issue."

Abuyuan said, "the utter paucity of data, research initiatives, and instruments that can model, measure and synthesize information that can indicate the array of responses that need to be deployed is seriously worrying."

Director General Romulo Emmanuel Miral, Jr. of the Congressional Policy Budget and Research Department, Congress' policy think tank, described the report as, "timely and urgent."

Miral said, "The Slow Onset Climate Impacts report will prove central to helping the House formulate a far more climate-responsive national budget."

Abuyuan said "Filipino scientists and authorities I interviewed shared the same call. Research, research, and more research. Work with institutions in the frontline of the climate crisis, such as state universities. Congress needs to increase the country's budget for climate change research by several magnitudes, and it needs to support our scientists so they can provide timely, scientific advice to local governments."

Reacting to the report's findings, Cong. Rodel Batocabe of AKO BICOL party list, chair of the House Special Committee on Climate Change, said "The current fixation on extreme weather events will only exacerbate the country's growing vulnerabilities, because we see only half of the danger. We are unaware of the extent of our exposure, and we cannot act wisely if we do not know which, where and how slow onset climate impacts will harm the country."

According to Batocabe, "Changes in ocean chemistry due to warming temperatures will hit food chains across the archipelago. This in turn will amplify risks to food and water security. The report is sobering and cannot be ignored."

Cong. Susan Yap of the 2nd District of Tarlac and Vice-Chairperson of the Special Committee on Climate Change added that "Congress needs to understand the urgency of slow onset impacts. It may lack the drama of calamities but, unabated, it will put at serious risk the country's food security, biodiversity, ecosystems, and culture, posing potentially irreparable loss and damage to infrastructure, human lives and the very viability of the country's economy."

ICSC led the crafting and passage of the People's Survival Fund (PSF), or Republic Act 10174. Passed in 2012, the PSF law established the country's first legislated finance mechanism dedicated to supporting the adaptation programs of localities. Christian Aid Philippines supported the research and publication of the report.

Editors Note: this article is reposted from