“Nagbabago ang panahon; pero hindi ang buhay namin.”
Thus spoke Mang Artemio, chief of a people’s organization on a small island community in Bohol, when I first asked him about his thoughts on climate change.
It was in 2014 when I first set foot in Nasingin. This tiny patch of land located southwest of Banacon Island in Bohol, Philippines, is home to at least 2,405 people. It was nothing like I’d ever seen before. It is approximately 1.7 km long; one can walk around the community in less than 15 minutes. Its foundations were a combination of dirt and coral, and the ground disappears twice a day when the sea comes sweeping in.
I first met Mang Artemio when I arrived on their island. He was very welcoming and eager to show me around. Upon knowing the purpose of my visit—which was to document their notions on climate change—he and the community members readily shared their stories.
Banacon Island, Bohol.
As an island community, their past is marked with strong waves, sea surges, and disastrous typhoons. When the weather is bad and they couldn’t go fishing, they resort to eating small shellfish picked up from the shore. When the shellfish are gone, they eat nothing.
Soon, they started planting mangroves. Over the years, their efforts culminated in a 300-ha. mangrove forest that cradles their island, protecting it from the inward rush of the sea.
And when earthquakes plagued Bohol in 2013, the community found refuge in their mangrove forest.
Fish and shellfish became abundant, and life went well again.
But they know that it will take more than a mangrove forest to adapt to the changing climate. More than strong waves and sea surges, Mang Artemio knew that small communities like theirs need stronger support from the government.
He believes that their indigenous knowledge should be complemented with technical assistance and policies that address their vulnerabilities.
So what can the government do to help build resilience in vulnerable communities like Nasingin?
Nationally Determined Contributions
The Philippines submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) in October 2015. The INDC is the country’s commitments to take climate actions to keep global temperatures below 2°C.
After a series of consultations with key stakeholders, the country identified five primary sectors that could drastically decrease CO2 emissions: transport, waste, forestry, energy, and industry.
Officially, the country committed to reduce carbon emissions by at least 70% by 2030. Mitigation actions were also mapped for each of the sectors, categorized as either priority options—those that account for 40% of the emission reduction target—or auxilliary options.
The Philippine’s INDC comes with a caveat: reduction of emissions could be better managed if the country receives resources such as technology and finance from outside sources.
Countries that have the means to provide financial and technical support are tasked to assist the Philippines in meeting its reduction goals.
But in any case, the INDC posits that achieving these targets will produce benefits not only for the environment but for the economy as well.
Adaptation is the focus of the INDC, in line with the country’s National Framework Strategy on Climate Change.
Although the INDC is a “no-regrets” policy—there is no legal liability if the country fails to reach its commitment—it is important for a country like the Philippines to make a contribution in keeping global temperature increase below 2°C.
A vulnerable nation like ours will be exposed to more threats if the world becomes warmer than it already is.
Graphic from Climate Action Tracker
Local Climate Change Action Plan
There is also a need to encourage climate actions at the local level. To this end, local government units in the country are required to draft and implement a Local Climate Change Action Plan (LCCAP), pursuant to the Climate Change Act of 2009.
Recognizing the potential of locally-driven climate action, the LCCAP aims to build communities’ resilience to climate change while taking into account their context, threats, and vulnerabilities. The LCCAP maps out the hazards that a community is facing and lays out a framework for the municipality’s adaptation and mitigation programs.
“An LCCAP could well define the strategies of a community for strengthening local risk governance, enhancing rural livelihood, ensuring ecosystems integrity, and building cultural resilience. Implementing these strategies surely reduces disaster risk and builds the adaptive capacity and resilience of communities to climate change impacts,” former Climate Change Commission Secretary Emmanuel de Guzman said in a statement.
The formulation of a municipality’s LCCAP provides a platform for the communities to participate in identifying and prioritizing climate change issues. Implementation of the plan is also a participatory effort, with key stakeholders of the municipality working together to address climate change.
Photo of Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation in Tacloban. Photo: Ted Aljibe AFP/GettyImages
Peoples’ Survival Fund
Plans such as the INDC and the LCCAP are a good start in laying out what we intend to do to combat climate change. However, there is still a need for resources to actually transform these plans into action.
Republic Act 10174 created the Peoples’ Survival Fund, an annual purse specifically allotted to local government units and accredited community organizations that wish to implement climate change adaptation projects.
The PSF is managed by the People’s Fund Survival Board, which is helmed by the Secretary of the Department of Finance, vice chairperson of the Climate Change Commission, Secretary of Budget and Management, and representatives from National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Interior and Local Government, Philippine Commission on Women, academe, business sectors, and others.
LGUs and accredited organizations submit their proposals outlining their plans and programs for climate change adaptation and the board will then select which proposals to fund according to their criteria.
Priority is given to LGUs with high poverty incidence, heavily exposed to climate-related threats, and has a biodiversity area.
The Filipino people are blessed with a country rich with natural treasures. Robust and rigid action should be taken to ensure that future generations will know our beloved home as we do now.
As a leader of the Climate Vulnerability Forum, the Philippines worked hard to lobby for the Paris climate deal. Now that the agreement has entered into force, we must stay vigilant to ensure that nations are cooperating to build resilience and to address climate-related issues.
Climate talks are transpiring in Bonn, Germany this month and let’s hope that participating countries will find a way to transform their commitments into solid and effective action.