When typhoons come, and they come pretty often on our side, we put our faith in God and bear the brunt of nature. When it’s over, we smile in front of the cameras despite the devastation around us and carry on with life because we say, “The Filipino spirit is waterproof.”
Engr. Noel Antonio Gaerlan, Climate Change commissioner, contests the Filipino people’s resiliency. He tells LEAGUE, “If we are truly resilient, why do disasters continue to harm us on an annual cycle?”
CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE COMMISSIONS
Climate change is an issue of major concern. “It is the change in the weather, global temperature, usual precipitation, wind patterns, and other measures of climate that occur over several decades or longer,” explains Commissioner Gaerlan. Climate Change Commission or CCC works hand-in-hand with the local officials and executives, capacitating them to address and adapt to climate change. CCC is only on its ninth year since the enactment of RA 9729 or the Climate Change Act creating the CCC. Comissioner Gaerlan is one of the three commissioners of the CCC, with President Duterte as its chairman. Prior to his appointment to CCC in 2016, Commissioner Gaerlan served as the Executive Director of the Manila Bay Coordinating Office (MBCO) and as the OIC Assistant Director of the DENR- Biodiversity Management Bureau. Some of his previous experience include developing master plans of major river systems in the country and climate-tagging and proofing the same.
CCC, or Komisyon sa Pagbabagong Klima in Filipino, is the lead climate policy-making government body mandated “to coordinate, monitor, and evaluate programs and ensure mainstreaming of climate change action in the national, local, and sectoral plans towards a climate-resilient and climate-smart Philippines.”
“Mainstreaming means that climate change action is embedded deep into one’s consciousness such that it has become a way of life or built into one’s lifestyle. It starts with awareness of what climate change is and its effects,” Gaerlan clarifies.
For example, global warming or the Earth’s rising temperature is an effect of climate change. According to “Climate Change and the Philippines,” an executive brief prepared by the CCC, “climate change has resulted in rising sea levels and extreme weather events such as super typhoons, more heavy rains, more intense heat and heat waves, and prolonged severe droughts, and consequently, enormous losses in lives, livelihoods, properties and the environment.” Haven’t we seen these effects and continue to experience them?
For the past 20 years or so, environmentalists have been painting an ugly picture of things to come if the world doesn’t change its ways. The ugly picture has become our reality in recent years with devastating super typhoons like Yolanda (2013) and Ondoy (2009) that claimed thousands of lives and properties, to name a few. The need to alter our lifestyles has become more urgent. As CCC’s tagline aptly reads,“Nagbabago na ang Panahon, Panahon na Para Magbago.” Now more than ever, the need to adapt to the impacts of climate change and to build resilience are of vital importance.
“While energy conservation is important, risk-based adaptation is a must for transformation. The former applies to all citizens, the latter to its leaders, particularly, the LGUs. Given the recent developments and our previous experiences during the typhoons and other disasters, we need to fast- track and address climate change action,” says the commissioner.
Climate change has resulted in rising sea levels and extreme weather events such as super typhoons, more heavy rains, more intense heat and heat waves, and prolonged severe droughts, and consequently, enormous losses in lives, livelihoods, properties and the environment.
UNDERSTANDING THE ROLE OF LGUS
According to RA 9729, the local government units are the frontline agencies in addressing climate change action and are to formulate the Local Climate Change Action Plan (LCCAP), in accordance with the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP). The NCCAP establishes the short, medium, and long-term plans for the government to implement climate change actions in seven areas—food security, water sufficiency, ecological and environmental stability, human security, climate-smart industries and services, sustainable energy, and knowledge and capacity development.
A vital document in accomplishing the LCCAP is the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP). Executive Order No. 72, which provides for the preparation and implementation of CLUP, was signed by President Fidel Ramos in 1993. According to the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board’s (HLURB) estimates in 2012, 70% of the municipalities had no or outdated land use plans prompting the agency to come up in 2015 with enhanced guidelines and to address the shortcomings of the older version incorporating climate change and disaster.
“Before, you’d think that you have to have CLUP ready before you can do your LCCAP, before you can do your land use development plan. What if you haven’t done a risk-impact assessment in your area? How do you prepare your land use plan? Although, you can do these simultaneously. When you know your future risks, then you do your LCCAP, then rationalize your land use and project your development—that becomes your local development investment plan,” Gaerlan explains.
We are very responsive to imminent danger and always on the recovery state. If that remains to be an annual cycle, how can you say you’re resilient? The concept of climate change action is anticipatory. People should be able to anticipate future events so that your disaster response become smaller.
LOW LCCAP TURN-OUT
In 2016, CCC rolled out its training program to provide technical assistance to LGUs in accomplishing their LCCAP using science- based tools and methods. It is an ongoing program offered by the Commission.
A quick look at the number of LCCAP submissions on the CCC website shows that only about 10% of the cities and municipalities across the country have submitted as of this writing; with the notable absence of LGUs from the NCR and Regions 14 to 17. Although, DILG reported that they already have 1,515 LCCAP submissions, according to Commissioner Gaerlan.
The Commissioner explains that given their presence only in Metro Manila and limited personnel, the Commission has yet to reach out to the other cities and municipalities in other regions. While the conduct of the Communities for Resilience Modular Training Manuals or CORE Module Series is scheduled by region according to CCC’s resources, LGUs may contact the Commission to arrange for the technical training.
Other factors in accomplishing the LCCAP include the political interferences and challenges, like the short three-year term of a local chief executive. There’s the lack of CLUP, which should not be much of a setback since the Commissioner himself said that this can be prepared simultaneously with the land use development plan.
PARTNERSHIP WITH THE ACADEME
Another difficulty is the lack of personnel to prepare who can be trained in an LGU, especially the lower class municipalities. One strategy that CCC is using is employing the help of higher education institutions (HEIs), mainly made up of SUCs or state universities and colleges like the UP System. CCC provides training to the HEI faculty members and assigns them as technical support to the LGUs where they belong. One advantage of engaging the academe instead of going directly to the city or town hall is the presence of personnel and the sustainability of the program. In fact, Cagayan State University (CSU) has a climate change curriculum proposal. Once approved by CHED, the other SUCs can replicate it. UP has one but with greater emphasis on disaster response. In the level of Basic Education, learning materials are now available for K-12 to make the younger generation become aware of climate change.
Funds are needed to mobilize HEIs and to establish the risk information system through the People’s Survival Fund (PSF)—a proposal recommended by the Commissioner that is awaiting approval from the DOF.
ACCESS TO THE BILLION-PESO FUND
Aside from the practical use of LCCAP, LGUs who have accomplished this science-based plan can have access to the PSF, which has an annual budget of P1 billion, as they now have a basis for climate change projects.
To date, these four projects amounting to P191.75 million have been approved and released in part: disaster risk reduction and management response as adaptation mechanism to resiliency by Lanuza, Surigaondel Sur; climate field school for farmers and fisherfolks in Del Carmen, Siargao; resiliency and climate-informed program of Gerona, Tarlac; and building resilience through community-based ecological farming in San Francisco, Camotes Island, Cebu.
The PSF Board, under the chairmanship of the DOF, has given a go to nine more projects amounting to P979.7 million but subject to further review, including those of Sarangani and Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte. With these developments, the other LGUs are encouraged to come up with measures to mitigate global warming and to increase their capacity to face disasters caused by extreme weather conditions.
A HERCULEAN TASK
Sadly, the country, though not a major emitter of greenhouse gas, is ranked third among the most vulnerable to climate change based on the survey conducted by HSBC. A country’s vulnerability is based on geography and development.
When asked how the Commissioner ranks the Philippines in terms of its resilience
to changing climate from a scale of 1-10, he replies, “Not even a 3. For one is our vulnerability. Second, we are very responsive to imminent danger and always on the recovery state. If that remains to be an annual cycle, how can you say you’re resilient?
The concept of climate change action is anticipatory. People should be able to anticipate future events so that your disaster response becomes smaller.”
The Commissioner cited the case of one whole barangay in Compostella Valley that was totally wiped out. Barangay Andap’s response was right, they evacuated; but the site of the evacuation center was the pathway of the landslide. In Tacloban during Typhoon Haiyan, the evacuation center was hit by the storm surge. The same site was later used to rebuild houses. When strong rains came, it was flooded.
Unfortunately, politics interferes; not everybody listens to the authority on climate change.
A GLIMMER OF HOPE
“What we do now is look for LGUs who are willing to take on the challenge and be our champions and then replicate,” Gaerlan says.
One example is the partnership of the local government and academe that established the Cagayan Valley Climate Change Consortium—composed of all the provincial agencies with technical support from CSU and Isabela State University (ISU). ISU is part of the group as it intends to replicate the partnership in the province of Isabela and eventually, to create a regional climate change consortium by early next year. Iloilo also has what it calls the Climate Change Adaptation Provincial Hub.
Commissioner Gaerlan hopes that the partnerships above will spark inspiration and encourage the other localities to band together to transform their respective areas to adapt to changing climate.
Some of the initiatives worth emulating are the coffee-based agroforestation program in Tublay, Benguet; the Banacon Island Mangrove Forest in Bohol; the Gulayan sa Bakod Program of the Eco-Entrepreneurial Greens Communities Inc. in Negros Oriental; H. Bautista Elementary School’s use of rainwater harvesting system in Marikina City; the New Lucena Eco-Park in Iloilo; and the Climate Resiliency Field Schools in Calasiao, Pangasinan.
In the legislative department, the bill to create the Department of Disaster Resiliency—integrating the NDRRMC with the other offices like the Climate Change Office, Office of Civil Defense, among others, and attaching PAG-ASA and PHIVOLCS to itself—for the country to respond faster to natural and man- made calamities has been approved at the House, a development that the Commissioner welcomes. What he also proposes is a policy that sets the standard for LGUs during planning, for example, which method to use when undertaking risk-impact assessment; what considerations should be taken into account to ensure CLUPs and LCCAPs and done correctly.
WATER-PROOF TO CLIMATE-PROOF
“We can blame the government and politics for the state we are in and even our fatalistic attitude, but in the end, it’s our generation and the next who will suffer until we get our act together. The power to transform ourselves from vulnerable to resilient is in our hands. We can start by putting pressure on the local government to take their mandate on creating their LCCAPs seriously and accurately.
The way forward is to become truly resilient. Our waterproof spirit can only take so much beating. It’s high time we level up and become climate-proof and climate-smart. — RHODA OSALVO