April 07, 2013

Secretary Lucille Sering: A Positive Change For Climate Change

How many people will matter in our lifetime?

I ask this simple question, curious on how all the sundry people we know affect our existence, or the existence of others. With my line of work, I have met a number of people who, from acquaintances or introductions, have become close friends or people I greatly admire. I have written about noteworthy people and I aim to highlight more individuals who, in their own profession or accomplishment, have piqued my interest and earned my respect.

My current advocacy speaks about the drastic changes in our living condition. Everyone has been affected with climate change and we all are suffering its effects daily. We have been complaining about the extreme heat we are experiencing, the ecstatic yet extreme typhoons, and all other issues about our environment, but little do most know that there is a government agency that has been working nonstop in initiating and rolling out steps to address these conditions.

I would like to introduce Secretary Lucille Sering, who I closely work with at the Climate Change Commission (CCC). Our commission is the government agency tasked to create, coordinate, and evaluate programs relating to climate change among others. The CCC team is composed of dynamic and passionate people who are working to make a difference for this generation and the ones ahead, performing studies and research to generate policies or action plans on climate change. 

One of the first few things I have learned from Secretary Sering about climate change is that dealing with this problem can not solely be done by just the CCC; it is a collective effort that involves every Filipino. I have always been concerned with climate change but to be honest, I knew very little about it. In the past months, after meetings with the secretary and the CCC team, I am learning more and understanding what I can do to contribute to a positive change. 

With all these in mind, I decided to interview and write about Secretary Sering to share her background and advocacy to everyone, and what is being done about climate change in the Philippines.

How did the passion and advocacy to address climate change come about?

I grew up in Surigao del Norte, a province regularly hit by typhoons. I was in high school when one of the deadliest typhoons called "Nitang" hit my town. The chaos somehow left a mark on me. I refused to believe that the wrath of nature is an excuse for the suffering that ensued. After passing the bar, I started teaching environmental law and then eventually brought me to my current job.

What is your daily work schedule as Secretary of the Climate Change Commission (CCC)?

I am an early waker but not an early riser. I wake up around 5 am and, even with eyes still closed, I reach out for my computer or ipad. I start browsing for news. Once done, I start reading policy papers published either by the World Bank, UN and other international organizations. I also read local policy papers. I start preparing for work around 8 am and I always arrive at work around 10. If I’m not at the office, almost always my day is spent outside for meetings. 

I used to play badminton or go to the gym after work - I’m trying to reclaim that part of my life again soon!

You’ve always stressed about spreading consciousness rather than just awareness on climate change. Why is that and what are the important steps being done by the CCC regarding this?

The world has been made aware of the effects of climate change since the early 90’s. But that awareness got stuck with governments including the Philippines. Climate change as a term is mentioned in some government policies but they were never taken seriously until weather events started getting extreme in the last 10 years. Although awareness and consciousness are considered one and the same in definition, I believe that the word consciousness pushes one to be more on guard thus one acts. 

Typhoon Ondoy in 2009 prompted congress to pass the Climate Change Act mandating government to mainstream climate change in all government plans and programs. Despite being a young organization, the CCC already crafted the first national action plan on climate change. But like all plans, unless implemented, it remains that, a plan. We need other government agencies to act as well. The role of the private sector is also crucial in implementing the plan. Hence the need for convergence among all sectors, public and private.  The National Climate Change Action Plan is not a plan of the CCC alone, but of everybody.

For this year, we are adopting the slogan "I Plan, I Act". The slogan starts from an individual but taken collectively. Every Filipino should own that plan so together we act to implement it. 

We have been pushing for lifestyle changes. With this, what are some of the more important things that you intend to instill in every Filipino’s consciousness?

Every Filipino must be made aware of the plan and thereafter to consciously make that effort to work together with government because government cannot do it alone. Every Filipino must demand from the government the services it deserves. But for a Filipino to do that, one must know what one asks. In short, be informed. 

Being a third world country, is there hope still in the Philippines in addressing climate change? Why?

We no longer refer to the Philippines as a third world country. We now call ourselves a developing country. And yes, there is still hope that the Philippines will be able to address climate change. We have proven to the world our resiliency in addressing a crisis. Climate change is not an exemption. We need to be able to adapt to changes and act as fast before it’s too late. I would not be in this job if I did not believe that there is still hope. The key: good governance leading to a strong political will. 

photo taken during the Greeneration Summit Cebu with student delegates

For more information on the Climate Change Commission, please visit:

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