Finally, a presidential debate segment on climate change. What did the candidates say?

MANILA, Philippines — Climate change experts and conservationists got what they’ve been waiting for in the Election Commission’s second presidential debate: an entire segment on climate change policy.

At the forum on Sunday April 3, the nine presidential candidates present were asked how they would deal with the myriad sustainability challenges posed by global warming.

Due to the new debate format, not all candidates were able to answer all questions. Instead, they were grouped into threes and these groups could only answer one question related to climate change. A rebuttal section was used by some candidates to elucidate aspects of their climate policy that they were unable to mention during their group tour.

The critical segment also revealed how familiar the candidates are with the current state of the Philippines’ climate policy – where we are in global climate negotiations, transitioning to green energy and responding to challenges. climate adaptation such as threats to food and water security. .

Here is a summary of what the presidential candidates have said about climate change.

Question 1: How will you promote the use of renewable energies?

This question was addressed to union leader Leody de Guzman, vice-president Leni Robredo and former Malacañang spokesperson Ernesto Abella.

Robredo has proven to be more knowledgeable about climate change mitigation goals or efforts to reduce humanity’s carbon emissions, which includes shifting away from energy-intensive energy sources. carbon like coal in favor of cleaner energy like solar or wind.

She mentioned the crucial United Nations climate change conference held in Glasgow in November 2021 (COP26) and the goal of achieving carbon neutrality (or when the carbon we emit is completely absorbed and does not the atmosphere, warming the planet) by 2050. The Philippines’ goal, called the Nationally Determined Contribution, is less ambitious: to cut emissions by 75% by 2030, but only if aid international is available. But Robredo is right in that many climate advocates are concerned about the government’s lack of a published roadmap on exactly how this goal is to be achieved.

She was also fair in asking why the share of renewables in our energy mix is ​​getting smaller and smaller.

De Guzman, as expected, condemned the influence fossil fuel companies could have on those in power and called for more political will to fight such a program. He trumpeted the typical militant line that the government should ditch coal. But this debate is more than just a question of political will. Energy officials are concerned that renewables may not yet be able to provide stable baseload power, hence the need to keep some coal-fired plants for now.

Robredo, on the other hand, recognized that the transition to renewable energy cannot happen overnight and proposed a transition phase – accelerating the award of service contracts for the development of natural gas fields so that this source of cleaner energy can be used in the meantime.

Abella, meanwhile, said he was open to nuclear power as an alternative energy source and talked about making agriculture more sustainable by also using renewables in the sector.

During the rebuttal part of this question, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno shared his plan for developing agrivoltaics in the country – or using the same plot of land to generate electricity through solar panels and planting crops.

“I will adopt what Germany and the Netherlands are doing now, an agrovoltaic system in which two parts – you produce food, you produce energy,” said Moreno.

Question 2: How will you ensure access to drinking water for all?

This question was directed to Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, former Secretary of Defense Norberto Gonzales and Senator Panfilo Lacson.

Moreno provided statistics, such as how only 33% of households in North Luzon have access to safe drinking water. His solution is to invest in watershed management – a logical solution because water concessionaires in Metro Manila, for example, already have to help protect watersheds, because watersheds are vital to maintaining river flow.

If those water companies refuse to participate, Moreno said, “Maybe I’ll revise their contracts.” It’s a move reminiscent of President Rodrigo Duterte, who, prompted by public outcry during a summer drought, demanded a review of Manila Water and Maynilad’s concession agreements with the government.

Gonzales’ solution would be to fix the pipes used to deliver water to households, saying that based on past experience in government, a lot of water is lost when it travels through pipes damaged. He also pushed for “national planning” of land use to set aside enough land for agriculture.

Lacson would focus on irrigating irrigable land that has yet to see irrigation facilities. This would help farmers get access to the water needed for their crops. It would also increase public spending on research and development.

“Why don’t we invest more of our national budget in research and development to find a way to collect all the wasted rainwater and ensure it benefits our fellow citizens, not just for irrigation but also for their daily needs? Lacson said in Filipino.

Pacquiao supports the creation of a water department, while Robredo said she would prioritize water resource management infrastructure and the identification of new water sources.

Question 3: What programs will you pursue to protect the nutrition of our compatriots, especially the poor?

This question was directed to Doctor Jose Montemayor Jr., Senator Manny Pacquiao and Faisal Mangondato.

This is the question that most candidates did not answer directly. Montemayor only said he would stop enforcing the rice pricing law because it hurt the income of Filipino farmers. Pacquiao said he would stop importing agricultural products. Mangondato pushed for federalism, saying it was the only way to ensure that enough funds were spent on agriculture and fishing.

In the rebuttal part after this question, De Guzman said he would support national land use planning “so that 30% of our farmland given to miners will be turned into farmland where we can plant food crops. “.

Moreno also spoke during the rebuttal part, but only to say that he wants to subsidize fertilizer for farmers, given the huge spike in fertilizer prices that is hurting farmers’ incomes. He repeated his plan to impose a three-year moratorium on land conversion to ensure farmland is not turned into housing estates or commercial developments. It would also crack down on the smuggling of agricultural products. –

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