Secretary Cusi is stuck in the past

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi appears stuck in the past, with his insistence on using fossil fuels which literally comes from the dinosaur era, and in backing up the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant revival, which was a project of the Marcos presidency.

Cusi has also opposed the Philippines’ ratification of the Paris Agreement.

In a letter addressed to the Department of Foreign Affairs and signed by Department Secretary Alfonso Cusi, the DoE says it is “constrained to maintain its reservation to submit its concurrence for the ratification by the President of the said agreement.”

Together with 195 countries, the Philippines signed the Paris Agreement last December 2015. One hundred seven countries have so far ratified the Paris Agreement which officially entered into force last November 4, only three days before the 22nd Conference of Parties began in Marrakech, Morocco.

The Philippines, however, has yet to ratify the agreement.

A certificate of concurrence is needed from all concerned government agencies before the President can sign the treaty. Out of all the government agencies that needs to submit a certificate of concurrence, only the Department of Energy has so far opposed the ratification. However, the President, after having apprehensions, already said he would ratify the Paris Agreement after his cabinet meeting last November 7. The President said that cabinet members, “except for one or two,” voted unanimously to sign the climate treaty.

In the same letter, Cusi also said that “The Philippine economy is still developing and its needs and effects of development are different with that of developed countries.” In the same breath, Cusi has said that “DoE shall voluntarily support all climate change efforts by the country.” This is the man, who, months earlier, said that his plans for the DoE is to “use whatever energy resources are available and affordable for power generation.”

It seems Mr. Cusi still does not get it. His concept and definition of “development” is one that is founded on dirty energy—the same path that developed countries took to get to where they are today, the same path that led us to the climate crisis. While most countries are now slowly shifting to renewable energy, Cusi wants to keep investing in fossil fuels and nuclear energy, forms that have been proven dangerous to the environment and to the people.

Ironically, Cusi is concerned about the Paris Agreement “stifling” the country’s development. He ignores how much the Philippines economy is stifled by the impact of climate change impact.

The National Economic and Development Authority with their Ambisyon Natin 2040, the 25-year long term vision for the Philippines, said that climate change is one of its priorities, especially because it affects the Philippines’ economic growth. The effects of climate change cost the country 1 percent of its GDP.

However, Cusi only chooses to see one side of the issue: the need for the Philippines to adapt and be resilient but not to do its own work in reducing carbon emissions. Cusi says that the “DOE shall look primarily into adaptation and resiliency programs” and that the “DOE shall voluntarily support all climate change efforts by the country” but “without sacrificing its mandate to ensure quality, reliable, affordable, and secure energy for the Filipinos.”

How can a country who has always been in the list of top 10 most vulnerable countries in the past 20 years continue investing in something that eventually contributes to its destruction? The Philippines has been calling for other countries to stop polluting, but wants to continue to pollute. How many more excuses do we have to hear?

A dirty form of development is not sustainable. The developed countries of today have done the same in the past and as a result, we are already seeing and reaping its effects. The world has already warmed at 1 degree Celsius and even only at 0.8 degrees of warming, extreme events such as typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) has happened. Already, at current climate commitments, worst-case scenarios point to 4 degrees of global warming above pre-industrial levels. Imagine if all developing countries of today decide to continue polluting in the name of development?

Does Mr. Cusi think that climate change will choose which country to hit based on how much carbon they have emitted? Climate change will not wait for anyone.

Cusi must start moving on from the past and work instead towards clean and sustainable development.


Originally published in Manila Standard