2016: Climate proofing governance in the Philippines - Blueboard by Alma Maria O Salvador

January 12, 2016

During the Ateneo-GawadKalinga (GK) ceremony that turned over German Village GK St. Joseph houses to 21 families last December 21st,  Nueva Ecija Mayor Gloria “Baby” Crespo-Congco said that the municipality of Cabiao has never experienced such destruction as did the damage wrought by the twin typhoons Lando and Nona at the closing of 2015.  As if the images of hectares of drowned rice fields were not enough, Congco shared stories that highlighted the mesh of poverty and hopelessness suffered by farmers when calamitous events such as typhoons and floods damage their livelihoods and drain local government financial resources.  
What is missing from Mayor Congco’s  speech is   a perspective of the climate change-driven security and governance challenges that constantly confront rural local governments such as Cabiao and Gabaldon.  Behind these challenges is the limited capacity of local governments to implement disaster risk reduction and management measures showing that no amount of planning fully prepares them from extreme events. Additionally, is the lack of local access to technical know-how and funds to climate change (CC) proof the agricultural and fisheries sectors which are the backbone of people’s livelihoods and yet are the most vulnerable to climate change risks.
Losses in agricultural production, in lives and infrastructure that have accompanied the stronger and more devastating  storms,  such as Lando (Koppu) in Central Luzon in 2015; Yolanda (Haiyan) in the Visayas in 2013; Pablo (Bopha) in Southern Mindanao in 2012; Ondoy (Ketsana) in Northern Luzon in 2009 confirm the emergence of a new (climatic) normal that requires new local governance imperatives. Given the “extreme vulnerability” of the rice granaries in Nueva Ecija, Cagayan Valley and Mindanao, a National Climate Change Action Plan, 2011-2028 assesses and establishes the country’s vulnerability to climate change risks. In support of this framework are the emergent stories from the ground that attest to the severe impacts of excessive rainfall, drought, temperature variabilities and “unpredictable seasonality” on cropping and harvesting (see Oxfam-GB’s Framework analysis and action for the Rural Sector at http://www.pcw.gov.ph/sites/default/files/documents/efiles/webmaster/rural-sector-climate-change-resilience.pdf) —- realities that are resonated in former Ateneo President Fr Ben Nebres, SJ’s most recent call for humanitarian action for the farmers of Cabiao, when “40% of the rice crops and 100% of the vegetable crops are gone”.

Beyond preparedness, the climate proofing of local  governance requires the establishment of “climate change adaptive” communities. It involves the application of vulnerability and adaptation assessments, local climate change development plans and tools for equipping local governments with information and measures to manage, cope and adapt to climate change risks. Climate proofing the agricultural sector also requires the development of hybrid crop varieties and the propagation of climate resilient planting, harvesting and intercropping technologies.  It entails the organization of alternative cropping schedules and practices as well as the institution of crop insurance for farmer’s protection. Rappler’sPiaRanada’s discussion of a disaster ready and climate resilient eco town in San Vicente, Palawan is instructive of this emergent trend. In Cabiao and Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija, beyond-disaster relief measures are beginning to include the distribution of rice seedlings for immediate replanting, planting of alternative crops such as sweet potatoes and the mobilization of  the community’s labor force to revisit traditional means of flood control.
During the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) Conference on DRRM in 2014, PhilippinePresident Benigno Aquino III spoke of the government’s efforts to climate proof “our path to progress”.  Centered  on how his  government “refused to be condemned to a vicious cycle of construction and reconstruction”, his policy statement creates a platform that major presidential contenders,  Poe, Binay, Duterte and Roxas should build on in their campaigns (see Rappler’s Maria Ressa’s interviews of these candidates, #TheLeaderIwant).

While the candidates’ platforms reflect that an integrated CC-DRRM in development and governance is a non debate, each should create spaces that widen the discussion of their respective disaster response and climate change platforms. 
Grace Poe’s election campaign highlights her role in having filed SB 2424 which seeks the protection of watersheds that support national irrigation systems. The bill acknowledges the critical role of watersheds as catch basins for filling up irrigation systems and in supporting agriculture - which it identifies as extremely vulnerable to climate change and to mining.
Binay’s populist platform includes “increasing to 50% the use of renewable energy in the Philippine energy mix by 2030”. He spoke of the implementation of DRRM, “climate change laws”,  urban planning, retrofitting, capacity building, and resilient housing at the local level.
Roxas’ role as the former interior and local government secretary, has given him an edge to “change” and “improve” the processes of the national DRRM office, PAGASA’s weather forecasting and local governments’ preparedness - even if he has to constantly defend his performance during the Haiyan disaster response in Tacloban.  In addition, heargues  for the “recognition” of  farms and rural enterprises, “revival in the agricultural sector” and sustainable development goals based on food and job security, education, “hanap-buhay” and “free(dom) from calamitous events”.
Finally, Duterte's record is presented by how he replicated his experience and leadership role in preparedness and response in Davao City at the time of typhoon Pablo, in his mobilization of search/ rescue and response teams to help the Yolanda-stricken victims of Tacloban.
Alma Maria O Salvador, PhD is assistant professor of political science at the Ateneo de Manila University.