(Below is the first of two parts of the presentation delivered during The Manila Times’ 3rd Annual Philippine Model Cities and Municipalities with the theme “Building Better Landscapes for the Next Generation” held at New World Manila Bay Hotel on Wednesday.)

“We are grateful to The Manila Times’ President and Chief Executive Officer Dante “Klink” Ang 2nd for being part of this year’s celebration.

Our honorable city and municipal mayors, fellow workers in government, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.

The imperative for a whole-of-government and whole-of-society effort to fight and build community resilience against climate change has never been more pronounced than ever.

The Philippines, in the 2019 Global Climate Risk Index by Germanwatch, ranked fifth among countries most affected by climate change from 1998 to 2017. Within these two decades, the country lost an annual average of 0.5 percent of its gross domestic product due to climate change impacts.

Moreover, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, the observed temperature in the country is rising at an average rate of 0.1 degrees Celsius (C) per decade and is projected to increase by as much as 0.9 C to 2.3 C by 2050, entailing drastic changes in weather patterns, increase in frequency, intensity and duration of floods, and droughts in the face of climate change.

Major changes in patterns and distribution of rainfall suggest a decrease by 2020 in most parts of the country except Luzon, and an increase in the number of days with heavy rainfall by year 2020 and 2050.

Sea level rise in the country is projected to be at 60 centimeters (cm) or three times the global average of 19 cm, with about 60 percent of our local government units at risk of storm surges, flash floods and saltwater intrusion.

Just last month, the Department of Health issued a national epidemic alert on dengue, following reports of 142,062 dengue cases in the country within the first seven months of this year, a sharp increase by 98 percent compared to the same period in 2018.

It is considered that dengue carrying mosquitoes naturally thrive in tropical and sub-tropical climates, but various studies point out that climate change is linked to the surge of dengue and potentially other vector-borne diseases, as rising temperatures may lead to longer transmission, and stronger rainfall and flooding may facilitate breeding, leading to a greater number of human infections.

Despite this bleak scenario, I remain positive that the Philippines can exercise leadership in climate change adaptation and be regarded as a model of resilience.

Climate Change Commission’s Communities for Resilience Program

While we already have the policies in place to enhance the adaptive capacities of our local communities, the commission, exercising its mandate, ensures that all policies and programs of communities address the gaps in local data and science on climate risks and hazards to guide local action as we pave the way toward resilience.

Local development plans, such as the Local Climate Change Action Plan (LCCAP) and the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan, which are the task of our laws, find their nexus in profiling and understanding the local prevalence of risk, defined through risk assessment and informed by the latest climate projections.

Capacity building of local government units (LGUs), therefore, becomes key to strengthening our national strategies and actions. Moreover, when their local plans are well founded on climate science and risk reduction policies, they ensure strong risk governance and sustainable investments at all levels.

To this end, the Communities for Resilience, or CORE, Program of the Climate Change Commission endeavors to build the capacities of local governments through higher educational institutions and state universities and colleges as mentors and facilitators in enhancing the knowledge of local government officials and planning officers on climate change adaptation and mitigation and disaster risk reduction.

Faculty members from higher education institutions across the country have been honed as trainers from 2016 to 2018 using the CORE Training Modules for risk science-based local development planning. It includes modules on greenhouse gas inventory and climate change expenditure tagging, critical processes for determining gaps in climate actions and financing at the local level.

Enabling LGUs to deliver on the task of the law: LCCAP. Since the launch of the CORE Program, the number of LCCAPs in place grew from 137 in 2015 to 1,191 this year — a ten-fold exponential increase in three years. I was told that no other country in the world is like the Philippines in this regard.

Ladies and gentlemen, through the years of implementing the CORE Program, we have advocated for LCCAPs to deliver on five key result areas:

– First, strengthening local risk governance — to fully understand prevailing risks and focus local actions and investments at reducing them;

– Second, enhancing the resilience of rural livelihood — to prepare our communities to adapt to the climate outlook and withstand the impact of weather extremes and rising sea levels on people’s lives and livelihood;

– Third, preserving the integrity of our ecosystems — our mangroves, our corals, our forests — to care for and nurture as they protect us from harm and support a healthy environment for all;

– Fourth, ensuring that our indigenous peoples’ culture remains rich and resilient. With some of our most vulnerable communities living within ancestral domains, their lifeways must be preserved as well as enriched along with their lives, livelihoods and environment. This is the rationale behind our development of a framework for converging multi-stakeholder efforts for our indigenous peoples through our initiative called Comprehensive Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resilience Program, or CICARP; and

Fifth: Strengthening early recovery planning — to fight the disruption caused by disasters, so that our people may recover quickly from any disaster and go on with their lives and continue contributing to nation-building as soon as possible.

Upcoming Joint Memorandum Circular with the DILG on QAR process for LCCAP. In line with our continuous efforts to provide technical assistance to LGUs on enhancing their LCCAPs, we are working closely with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in finalizing the LCCAP Quality Assurance Review (QAR) Mechanism, which will institutionalize a process for providing feedback and recommendations to local government units on how to further improve their climate action plans. We are set to release a joint memorandum circular on the guidelines for assuring the quality and responsiveness of LCCAPs.

Restrategized CORE rollouts. This year, in order to reach the most climate vulnerable communities, the CORE Program gives preferential attention to local communities in the Yolanda Corridor, to coastal communities more vulnerable to rising sea level and salt water intrusion, and to indigenous peoples whose resilience to extreme weather events are compromised by weak and vulnerable livelihoods.

For our first rollout, we only deem it fit to relaunch the CORE training in Tacloban, the ground zero of [Super Typhoon] “Yolanda.” We also held the CORE LCCAP Training for Coastal Communities in Albay.

Local chief executives of participating municipalities and cities for both rollouts signed a declaration recognizing the prevailing climate emergency in the country and conveying a collective resolve to rise to the climate challenge.

(To be concluded next week.)