Clean Energy Progress in the Philippines Under President Arroyo
The Philippines has long been a leader in climate protection. The 1995 film Global Warning, inspired by then Senator Heherson Alvarez, sounded the alarms in the Philippines much like the film that earned an Academy Award for Al Gore a decade later. The Manila Conference convened in 1995 by then Philippine President Fidel Ramos and the organization of green parliamentarians led by Senator Alvarez produced a Manila Declaration that helped lay the groundwork for negotiating the Kyoto Protocol 2 ½ years later. Earthsavers Dream Ensemble, a remarkable singing and dance group of Filipino youth led by Senator Alvarez’s wife Cecile, provided emotional highlights at both the Manila and Kyoto Conferences.
In recent months under the leadership of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo the Philippines has moved to reassert its leadership of the climate protection effort in Asia. On November 20, 2008 President Arroyo convened a Carbon Cutting Congress at Malacanang Palace (the President’s residence) that drew together 350 leaders including governors, mayors and university presidents to shape the Philippines’ position at the Poznan Conference. The President departed from Malacanang Palace just before the Congress convened in the hope of participating in a peace conference to end the insurrection in Mindanao. Just before her departure she met with Climate Institute President John Topping who presented President Arroyo a copy of Sudden and Disruptive Climate Change as well as Michael MacCracken’s article on outlines for a North-South accord in the next round of the climate negotiations. The President was ably represented at the Congress by Vice President Manuel Noli De Castro, Jr. and Secretary Heherson Alvarez, Cabinet Level Adviser to the President on Global Warming and Climate Change and organizer of the Congress. Secretary Alvarez was chair of the Philippine delegation to Poznan. Although the Philippines’ per capita greenhouse emissions are only about 7% of those in the US, there seemed a willingness for the Philippines to act aggressively to limit its emissions. One governor, after describing the strong steps his state is taking to address climate change, suggested the Philippines should take advantage of the retreat in oil prices to impose a carbon tax whose proceeds might be rebated to the public. The Congress voted to have the Philippines seek to adopt an Interactive Climate Awareness and Response System akin to that being implemented in Mexico. John Topping had described this system in some detail in his speech.
A few weeks later it was clear the Philippines is quite serious about acting to limit its emissions. On December 16, 2008 President Arroyo signed into law the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 moving her nation to the forefront in alternative energy development in Asia. The law provides a seven year income tax holiday and tax exemptions for the carbon credits generated from renewable energy sources. It seeks to increase the Philippines energy self sufficiency from its 56% level in 2005 to 60% in 2010 by harnessing resources such as solar, wind, hydropower, ocean and biomass energy, as well as geothermal energy where the nation is already a world leader.
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