THE Philippines is a country most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. With rising temperatures and sea levels, increased intensity and frequency of environmental hazards like drought, typhoon and flooding, climate-smart measures deserve our attention. Extreme weather events that adversely affect the living conditions and threaten the food security of our people, with longer periods of drought reducing farm yields and causing shortage in water supply, which is vital for domestic use, farming and irrigation, are now felt and seen like never before. Although we can agree that it is a global phenomenon, we need not wait for international aid or support to cushion its impacts, because truly, this matter requires first and foremost localized solutions.
To better anticipate the pressures brought about by changing climatic conditions, we have to show commitment in integrating climate change adaptation and disaster-risk reduction and management (CCA-DRRM) strategies in the action plans of our local government units (LGUs).
In August 2017, the provincial government of Masbate spearheaded the “Climate-Smart Masbate: Leadership for Climate Resilient Development Orientation Workshop.” This was the first of its kind in the main island of Luzon, and is now being replicated nationwide. Climate change experts, scientists and colleagues from the Harvard Club of the Philippines and the Harvard Kennedy School Alumni Association shared their knowledge and expertise with various stakeholders in the province, including LGUs, civil society organizations (CSOs), schools, youth groups, church leaders and private institutions.
One of the main topics discussed was the People Survival Fund (PSF). The PSF is a special fund created by virtue of Republic Act 10124, which aims to provide long-term finance streams to enable the government to effectively address the problem of climate change. Under this law, the government is mandated to earmark at least P1 billion for the PSF annually. The same law says that any portion of the fund that is unused will not be returned to the national treasury. However, information and education about this fund scheme has not been widespread. It may be recalled that the CCC came under fire in the Senate as many LGUs remained unaware that they could access the PSF to boost their long-term mitigation and adaptation programs on climate change. The challenge then is to popularize this adaption mechanism to encourage maximum participation.
Another equally important measure discussed during the workshop was the food-energy-water (F-E-W) nexus system. This is a CCA-DRRM solution that addresses food-energy-water issues of a certain province. It features a comprehensive accounting system of all the resources available in the area. For example, when a particular municipality gets affected by a climate hazard, the system provides an avenue for other municipalities to send help and share resources with those in need.
What’s next for Masbate?
Being an isolated province from mainland Bicol, it is difficult for Masbate to ask and receive help from neighboring provinces during times of calamity and disaster. The provincial government and its people must work together in facing climate challenges. Multi-sectoral collaboration is key to make Masbate both economically and environmentally sustainable.
This summer, the provincial government of Masbate in partnership with the Harvard Kennedy School Alumni Association of the Philippines will conduct further training for all the stakeholders on climate-smart initiatives to make Masbate even more resilient to the impacts of climate change. It also aims to come up with a climate change adaptation program or project for each municipality. Modules on basic climate science, scenarios, modelling, risk and impact assessment will be part of the training program initiated by the Office of the Vice Governor and that of fellow HKS alumni, the Outstanding Scientist of the Philippines, professor Glenn Banaguas.
Apart from conducting awareness seminars and workshops, the province must also look into investing in climate-smart technologies. A rain harvester, for example, can augment the province’s water supply especially during dry season. Also, it would be a wise move to install affordable and reliable early warning systems which can help detect imminent climate threats like stronger typhoons and heavier flooding.
Indeed, the climate battle is an uphill trek—but it is certainly not an unwinnable fight. Masbateños need to continuously support and help each other, regardless of status or political affiliation. Through cooperation and initiative, we are definitely closer toa stronger and more resilient province. And as Masbate has set the bar in climate-smart initiatives, we can only hope that the rest of the country follows through.
Kaye C. Revil is the Vice Governor of Masbate and the president of the Lady Local Legislators’ League of the Philippines. She is also a member of the Harvard Kennedy School Alumni Association of the Philippines.
Roy Joseph Roberto is a Climate Justice Fellow of Climate Tracker, a group of climate journalists and advocates globally. He has been named as Youth Champion for Climate Action by the 2030 Project in the Philippines.