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Rodrigo Duterte

After high-profile backlash, the Philippines’ president is softening his stance on a landmark climate deal

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is saying he would sign it based on unanimous vote in his cabinet

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 2:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 2:07pm

Since taking office this summer, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has inveighed against many things, and his controversial rhetoric and brutal drug war have attracted most of the attention.

But Duterte has also opposed the Paris Agreement, a landmark climate deal signed by the Philippines and 194 other countries at the end of 2015 — that is, until another Philippine leader pushed back on his stance.

Duterte had said his government would not honour the deal, calling it “stupid,” “crazy,” and “absurd.”

The Philippine president said the deal would only limit the country’s industrial growth, which he regarded as hypocritical, as major developed countries had relied on industrial activities to advance their economies.

Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino, committed the Philippines to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 70% from year-2000 levels by the year 2030, a reduction conditioned on Manila getting support from other developed countries to switch to clean technologies.

“There is no treaty to honour. We have not signed the treaty,” Duterte said in July, after he took office. “If you will not allow us to reach parity, you are already there and we are still here, then I’m saying that’s crazy. I will not agree to that.” (The Paris deal does actually allow developing countries to keep burning fossil fuels.)

But, this month, Duterte walked back his opposition to the Paris climate deal, saying that even though he had misgivings about the agreement he would sign it, since it was backed by a nearly unanimous vote in his cabinet.

It seems likely that his cabinet members and other lawmakers, who said they would “try to educate the president” after his July comments, had some influence over Duterte’s thinking — among them former President Fidel Ramos, who wrote in strident opposition to the current president’s stance on the deal in October.

“So, is he allowing his countrymen/women to continue suffering from the devastating effects of typhoons ... about which Earth’s people were warned more than 20 years ago, and which must now be mitigated by more intense international cooperation and collective positive action???” Ramos wrote on October 29 in Philippine newspaper Manila Bulletin.

Ramos continued, referring to Duterte by his nickname, DU30:

Duterte has espoused a number of controversial positions during his brief time in office, particularly in comments about his ongoing crackdown on the drug trade, which is thought to have led to some 4,000 deaths since he took office.

And though Duterte has not reversed himself on many issues, he has at times appeared to waffle or adopt conflicting positions.

On numerous occassions since taking office, Duterte has said his government would scrap his country’s longstanding relationship and cooperation with the US, but both the US and Philippine governments have said there has been no official move to do that.