He's referring to the lack of a database abstraction layer like DBI for Perl, the point of which would be to prevent having to recode anything to switch to another RDBMS. ODBC is a bad suggestion because its performance sucks and there are many advanced features which it is too generic to expose.

A better suggestion would be to use the community written database abstraction classes for PHP. (I wrote one of these myself, disgusted with the PHP database APIs.)