The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, due to its high exposure to natural hazards, dependence on climate-sensitive natural resources, and vast coastlines. According to the World Risk Report in 2019, the Philippines ranks as the ninth most vulnerable country to disaster and climate change-related risk among the 180 countries examined. On average, 20 tropical cyclones enter the Philippines region every year, and these numbers are expected to increase in frequency and severity due to climate change. In 2013, one such destructive cyclone, Typhoon Haiyan, cost 4.7% of the country’s GDP . Additionally, Philippine ecosystems are facing high levels of environmental degradation.
The Philippines has been one of the fastest growing economies in ASEAN , however, with the COVID-19 pandemic these gains are now at risk. In 2020, the GDP shrank by 9.5% and the country is facing a substantial increase of inequalities and multidimensional poverty including access to social services such as health and education as well as food security . The process of recovery from the COVID-19 crisis needs to focus on building back greener  and transitioning to a sustainable, climate neutral, resource efficient and shock-resilient circular economy .
Rapid urbanization and an increasing population are major contributors to environmental instability in the country. The impact of climate change and human activities aggravate the condition of the environment, leading to a series of environmental problems that have significant economic impacts.
Key policies and governance approach
For the Philippines, a Climate Resilient Green Economy is the Government’s vision for the nation’s development as part of the Philippine National Development Plan 2017-2022, the National Framework Strategy on Climate Change 2010-2022, and the National Climate Change Action Plan 2011-2028 as well as the National Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Management Plan 2011-2028 which supports the Sendai Framework for DRR 2015-2030 . While adaptation in the country remains a priority, several policy issuances have been enacted that are geared toward mitigating GHG emissions, including the recent Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act of 2019 (RA 11285), which intends to secure sufficiency and stability of the country’s energy resources by promoting the development and utilization of efficient renewable energy technologies and systems .
To support the transition to a green economy, the government enacted the Green Building Code of 2016 that promotes resource efficiency in buildings, and the Philippine Green Jobs Act of 2016 (RA 10771) which fosters a competitive, low-carbon, and environmentally sustainable economy, through the promotion of green jobs. It also provides incentives to business enterprises that use green technologies to produce environmental goods and render services. The Green Jobs Act mandates the development of a National Green Jobs Human Resource Development Plan which lays down strategies to support the development of green skills and competencies required in a green economy. It also mandates the just transition of work by providing adequate and sustainable social protection for job losses and displacement and ensuring skills development and social dialogue .
Additionally, the Philippine government, through NEDA, has prepared the Philippine Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) Action Plan to serve as a guiding framework for more strategic and cohesive SCP actions to promote resource conservation and efficiency, sustainable business and lifestyles, and waste and chemicals management, among others . Among the key programs prioritized to support the target outcomes include the institutionalization of Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) to enable comprehensive measurement and accounting of the value of the country’s natural resources and the impacts of economic activities to the environment .
To advance the role of tourism in investment generation, foreign exchange, and employment, the Tourism Act of 2009 (RA 9593) was enacted, which promotes sustainable tourism development and grants preferential employment to Filipinos in tourism enterprises. It also encourages the participation of NGOs, people’s organizations, and the private sector in initiating programs for tourism development and environmental protection. Following this, the government crafted the National Tourism Development Plan 2016-2022 and the National Ecotourism Strategy and Action Plan 2013-2022 to develop a globally competitive, environmentally sustainable, and socially responsible tourism industry .
Successes and remaining challenges
A recent study , jointly produced by Climate Policy Initiative and Vivid Economics, maps the ‘greenness’ of Asia’s COVID-19 fiscal stimulus measures and their contribution towards country-level climate objectives. The analysis focuses on five Asian countries, including the Philippines, which has approved USD 17.0 billion in fiscal stimulus packages in response to COVID-19. Almost all the Philippines’ stimulus packages are not environmentally related, representing 96% of total stimulus packages, with a large portion geared towards supporting businesses, providing social support, and support to the healthcare sector.
According to the study, the Philippines included no quantified commitments towards green outcomes as part of the fiscal stimulus packages. Most policies announced by the Philippines are ‘dirty’ measures, meaning they have a negative impact on the environment. These measures are particularly targeted towards the industrial sector, including investments and subsidies for environmentally harmful activities. Such harmful policies have also been announced with respect to the transportation sector in the form of subsidies for environmentally harmful products, and in the agricultural sector in the form of unconditional bailouts without green strings attached. Meanwhile, policies that are expected to create positive impacts for the environment have been announced only in the energy sector, including a levy on petroleum products, the reduction of electricity prices for renewables, and payment to renewable energy developers.
The study also indicated the country’s current trajectory is not consistent with the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal. Current policies are not yet on track to meet the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) target of 70% GHG emissions below business-as-usual by 2030. A key issue being the projected growth of coal .
While renewable energy initiatives have been put in place in the Philippines to lower electricity costs and reduce dependence on imported fuel, the country currently lags compared to its neighbours in terms of renewable energy penetration. Renewable energy development tends to be challenging given the numerous and sometimes confusing regulatory hurdles. Consequently, project funding may be difficult to obtain .
Further, the Philippines faces the following key challenges in relation to achieving sustainable consumption and production: continued economic, population, and urban growth, resulting in increasing demand for and pressure on natural resources in terms of stocks and pollution; the exponential rise in waste generated by the country in the absence of effective solid and hazardous waste management systems, meaning the waste assimilation capacity of the environment has been pushed to the limit; weak enforcement of environment-related laws and regulations, and policy gaps; and lack of data and an effective monitoring system to evaluate the impacts of policies and programs on the environment and natural resource use .
Initiatives and Development Plans
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), in collaboration with the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), launched the project “Environmental-Economic Accounting for Evidence-Based Policy in the Philippines” in May 2021. This project aims to address the technical and institutional barriers to the establishment of routinely produced environmental-economic accounts at the national level. It focuses on: 1) building the institutional framework in support of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounts (SEEA) implementation; 2) building capacity to compile priority accounts on a regular basis; 3) fostering inter-institutional relationships to promote collaboration and data-sharing; and 4) promoting the effective communication and use of the accounts in supporting evidence-based policy and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) .
Goals and Ambitions
The country’s National Renewable Energy Program seeks to increase the Renewable Energy-based capacity of the country to an estimated 15,304 MW by the year 2030, almost triple its 2010 level .
- Foster collaboration between the public and private sectors.
- Bring the private sector to the forefront of the transition to a green economy. Because of fiscal restraints in many countries, private finance will increasingly have to make up the bulk of green finance over the long term.
- Identify opportunities and impose effective policies and support measures. This can be done through the combination of economic incentives, voluntary approaches, and strong enforcement mechanisms.
- Green policy measures should be implemented across sectors, including green infrastructure investment and green research & development subsidies.
- Utilise opportunities in the agriculture sector to include support for nature-based solutions and conservation and wildlife protection programs.
- Natural capital accounting approaches enable governments and businesses to improve their decision-making to include natural capital considerations.
- Gain support from all stakeholders in accepting green technologies and options and incorporating a circular economy in the process.
- Skills training for the Government and the Private Sector to ensure a smooth transition.
- Promotion of sustainable consumption and production.
 SDG, NEDA (2020). Philippine Action Plan for Sustainable Consumption and Production (PAP4SCP). [Online]. Available: https://sdg.neda.gov.ph/philippine-action-plan-for-sustainable-consumption-and-production-pap4scp/.
 The Law Reviews (2021). [Online]. Available: https://thelawreviews.co.uk/title/the-renewable-energy-law-review/philippines.
 Development Asia (2020). [Online]. Available: https://development.asia/case-study/developing-action-plan-sustainable-consumption-and-production-philippines.
 Philippine Statistics Authority (2021). PSA-UNSD launched the Environmental-Economic Accounting for Evidence-Based Policy in the Philippines. [Online]. Available: https://psa.gov.ph/environment/peenra/releases/164568.
 Department of Energy, Republic of Philippines (2021). [Online]. Available: https://www.doe.gov.ph/national-renewable-energy-program?withshield=1.
 Daniele Ponzi (2019). The Business of Greening: Policy Measures for Green Business Development in Asia. ADB Sustainable Development Working Paper Series, No. 59. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22617/WPS189776.