The United Nations has acknowledged the efforts of the Philippine government to address climate change.

In a bilateral meeting held Friday at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Quezon City, Environment Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje discussed with UN Environment Program (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner the various programs being implemented by the agency to increase the country’s natural defenses and resiliency.

Steiner applauded the leadership of the Philippines within the climate change convention and the innovation it has demonstrated at the national level.

“Ahead of the Call to Action, we are already doing our share to address climate change. The directive of President Aquino is to improve our natural defenses and to significantly increase the resiliency of communities,” Paje said.

He cited the National Greening Program, log ban in natural forests, geohazard assessment and mapping program and clean air as among the priority programs being implemented by the DENR to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Steiner, accompanied by UNEP Regional Director and Representative for Asia and the Pacific Kaveh Zahedi, met with DENR officials to discuss potential cooperation on renewable energy and climate change.

According to Paje, the UN official also expressed hope the Philippines will be among the first 50 countries to ratify the Minamata Convention and give it the legal identity it needs in order to become effective.

"The Minamata Convention is a worthy cause and it calls for leadership, so that it does not linger in the drawers of international conventions," Paje quoted Steiner as saying.

The Minamata Convention was signed by Paje, who was given full powers by President Aquino to sign the treaty on behalf of the Philippines, during a conference organized by the UNEP in Kumamoto City, Japan, on October 10, 2013.

The pact will take effect 90 days after ratification by at least 50 countries.

Paje likewise offered for a potential presence of UNEP in the Philippines as a way to reciprocate the UN agency’s continuing commitment in providing support to various environmental programs and projects.

According to the environment chief, there are currently seven projects being implemented by the DENR funded by UNEP. These projects include invasive species management, monitoring of persistent organic pollutants or POPs, implementation of the strategic action programme for the marine and coastal environment of the South China Sea, ozone depleting substance (ODS) and the HCFC Phaseout Management Plan.

Other areas of cooperation discussed by the two officials were on the following:

• Support to the Philippines to increase investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, including the development and implementation of green energy policies;
• Work together on the valuation and integrated management of ecosystems, including through the Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystems Services (WAVES) program as well as work in the marine and coastal ecosystems through the Coral Triangle and other programs;
• Strengthen collaboration between UNEP and the Philippines, including scaling up joint work under the Global Environmental Fund 6 cycle; and
• Strategic partnerships to help support the broader ASEAN region in partnership with the Philippines. ###