Climate Change’s Global Champion

Salceda sat as co-chair of the board (for developing countries) of the Green Climate Fund in 2013-2014, representing the Asia Pacific.   He was the first Senior Global Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation (2010).  He was an advisor of the Transitional Committee of the Green Climate Fund of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (2011).

Tall, lean, lanky and brainy, Joey Sarte Salceda, 61, made a fortune as Asia’s  stock market and investment best analyst for several years.

Then public service beckoned.  He became congressman for nine years, cabinet member for one year, governor of Albay for nine years, and now back as congressman to serve for nine more years, from 2016, all while being economic adviser to four presidents.

His passion lately has turned to two major challenges: One, turning around the economy from its deepest slump ever in 100 years, and two, prepare the Philippines for the impending climate change Armageddon in the next 25 to 100 years.  

Both challenges are herculean and cannot be overcome by simple application of traditional ways of governance and doing business, nor by employment of what politicians have plenty of–saliva.

The imprint and impact of Salceda’s brand of governance are evident in Albay today. Joey did five great things for Albay: 

1. Climate change. He climate change-proofed his beloved Albay province. As co-chair of the UN Green Climate Fund, he helped raise $10 billion for climate change adaptation and mitigation in poor countries. 

Salceda sat as co-chair of the board (for developing countries) of the Green Climate Fund in 2013-2014, representing the Asia Pacific. He was the first Senior Global Champion for Disaster Risk

Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation (2010). He was an advisor of the Transitional Committee of the Green Climate Fund of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (2011).

Climate-proofing Albay

Typhoon Reming (“Durian”) struck the Philippines on Nov. 29, 2006, with sustained winds of 250km/kph. Albay bore the brunt of its fury.   Reming affected its three cities and 15 of its towns, 203,496 families or 1.06 million people. 

Some 112,000 houses were totally destroyed while another  100,000 were substantially damaged. Reming killed 618, injured 1,465, with 419 people missing. Total damage wrought by Reming: P14.95 billion – P4 billion in public infrastructure, P903 million in agriculture, and P10.045 billion in private housing.

Reming impacted on nearly half of Albay’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Under a less able and less visionary administrator, Albay would have sunk deeper into rut.

Eureka moment

Reming became Joey’s eureka moment. Assuming office as governor on June 30, 2007, Salceda found Albay a devastated province, its people low in morale, their capacity much diminished, their vision for a bright dimmed.  Reming damaged nearly half of Albay’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or economic output.

Seven years after Reming, Albay has had no typhoon casualty in 18 of the past 20 years.  Its forest cover has expanded by 88%, and its mangroves have multiplied four-fold. The province was also proclaimed a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

The province is almost 100% self-sufficient in rice (up from 73% in 2008), is the Philippines’ second biggest producer of camote (a cash crop that fetches higher prices than rice), and the biggest abaca producer.

Albay is the main province of the Bicol region, a peninsula on the southeastern tip of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon.  It faces the Pacific Ocean where many, if not most, of more than 20 tropical storms originate and navigate.  

Three to five of those howlers hit Albay directly, each year.  The cyclones are what Salceda refers to as “the Pacific jinx,” the result of an accident of geography. In addition to the typhoons, there is 2,462-meter-high Mount Mayon, the most beautiful, the most majestic and the most perfect-coned volcano in the world.  “Every time it erupts, Mayon beautifies itself and becomes more perfect,” says the former governor and now congressman Joey Salceda. 

2.  Infra. He modernized Albay – and Bicol’s—infrastructure.

A P4.7-billion airport with a 2.4-km runway was completed.  The major tourism areas are linked by new, concrete roads.  Bicol, as a region, has a single infra and tourism development, unified by a common purpose and a common vision. 

Four major constituencies—Guinobatan, Camalig, Daraga and Legaspi—were developed into a massive economic township, Guicadale, at a cost of P4.6 billion, with 28 road projects extending for 194 kms.  The rate of return is awesome for the developers – 23.65%.

3.  Tourism.  He made Albay as the Philippines’ hottest tourism destination. Destination, with as many as a million visitors, up from a measly 8,700 a year in 2006 before he became governor. 

 4.  Human capital. He has vastly improved Albay’s human capital.

More than, 88,800 were sent free to college, funded by a P750 million loan from the Land Bank and P600 million or 20% of Albay’s annual budget.   He put a college student or graduate in every Albay household.

Albay graduated 177,000 a year from college, up from just 34,000 in 2007.  Albay itself improved its National Achievement Test ranking, from 177th to 19th nationwide. 

5. Visioning. He contributed substantially to improving the quality of local governance, in reshaping the Filipino attitude towards disasters and climate change, and in modernizing the national economy and preparing, not only his home province, but the Philippines as a better place for future generations of Filipinos.

With a more caring government under Salceda, Albayanos—and Filipinos—are more confident in themselves and more ambitious. They can expect to be more secure, and have higher incomes, better education, better health care, higher standard of living, a longer life, and a brighter future.

Salceda has just about succeeded in eliminating poverty in Albay.

He will make Albay a California in 30 years – in terms of per capita income, with bustling agriculture and teeming with green energy.

The country and indeed, the world, have taken notice of Governor Joey’s passion and advocacies and how they have yielded immense benefits for the people.

On the national stage, Joey helped produce the nuts and bolts of what is now TRAIN – Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion. 

Salceda has brought to Congress a wealth of experience from the financial markets and the field of economics. 

Other laws that have Salceda’s imprint: CREATE, TRAIN, the POGO Tax Law, the tax regime for proprietary schools, the alcohol, tobacco, and e-cigarette excise tax laws, and the Free College Tuition Law which seeks to create a college graduate in every household, the ultimate inclusion.

He was the principal author of the SK Officials Compensation Law, as a first step towards professionalizing the unit of youth governance. 

He was the principal sponsor and co-author, respectively, of Republic Act No. 8751, or the Countervailing Duty Act, Republic Act No. 8752, the Anti-Dumping Duty Act, and Republic Act No. 8800, or the Safeguard Measures Act. These measures were critical in allowing the country to realize the full benefits of its membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and at the same time protect domestic farmers.