Changing climate, changing governance



THE TOPNOTCHERS. Entire families in flood-prone areas rush up to the roofs of their house to beat the rapidly rising waters in these frightful times of climate change. This extended family on Araneta Avenue is on top of everything while waiting for their rations and rescue (whichever comes first). NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

(Senator Legarda is Chair, Committee on Climate Change United Nations Regional Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific)

The Camotes Island in Cebu, a tropical paradise blessed with sugary white sand and pristine, crystal clear waters, has become a model for disaster risk reduction and management, with one of its municipalities, the town of San Francisco, winning the 2011 United Nations Sasakawa award for Disaster Risk Reduction.

With the goal of sustainability for their farming and fishing communities, the townsfolk established the Purok system as a way to build capacity for local action. This traditional method of self-organization within villages helped communities to understand and develop the discipline needed in proper waste management and disaster prevention. It also encouraged voluntary contribution to a fund for emergency preparedness and responsiveness.

The residents are vigilant in implementing segregation at source—strictly enforcing their no trash segregation-no collection policy, recycling, composting and the collection of payment for carbon taxes, which are based on the amount of domestic waste produced from day to day.

To rehabilitate their watersheds, the local government initiated the Two Million Trees project, which aims to plant two million endemic or native trees by 2015. A tour around Danao Lake, one of the areas for tree planting, leads one to rediscover native trees such as tugas, ipil, buyos, nagtalisay and talamban.

Camotes Island’s program is considered, among neighboring provinces, as an example of building resilience through good governance.

In Surigao del Norte, the third class municipality of Hinatuan has been implementing an effective Solid Waste Management program since 2008.

Led by their mayor, consultations with the people revealed the need for an effective waste management program that would support local compliance of the law.

Through the program, the townspeople of Hinatuan cleaned clogged canals, cleaned their surroundings and seawater, as well as regulated plastic use and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Zero Basura Olympics

Four years after, proper waste disposal is now a way of life for the people in this town, contributing greatly to disaster preparedness in the event of a natural hazard. Compost, which is a by-product of processing waste, also encouraged households to grow backyard gardens resulting in improved food security.

In 2010, the municipality of Hinatuan won the nationwide Zero Basura Olympics.

Clearly, if Hinatuan and Camotes Island can effectively enforce our environmental laws, there is no reason for a town, city or province to say that it cannot be done.

Their success stories encourage us to not wait for the next disaster to strike, but instead act decisively, now.

We must assess our respective work in reducing flood risk, if we are really making any headway amid the ‘new norm’ we experience in this era of climate change. We must implement immediately the Climate Change Act and Disaster Risk Reduction and International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

The nation’s capital needs a comprehensive recovery and rehabilitation plan that will reduce people’s vulnerability and increase the resilience of all sectors to floods. We must strengthen flood control projects, relocate informal settlers living along riverbanks and esteros, and undertake drainage improvement and watershed projects in selected locations. We have to always ensure that esteros, waterways, and drainages are not clogged with waste materials. Moreover, we must educate Filipinos on the importance of waste segregation and provide effective waste disposal methods.

It is imperative for the government to submit to the discipline of disaster and climate risk-sensitive development planning. The national government budget for 2013 must anticipate and can withstand the impacts and economic stress brought about by stronger typhoons, heavier rains, prolonged droughts and other extreme weather events.

When the floodwaters subside, we must restore normalcy in people’s lives with a stronger sense of hope and confidence for the future.

While we rebuild the lives of our people in disaster-stricken areas, it may be good to reflect that a similar disaster is likely waiting to happen in hundreds of other places in our country, maybe known already to us.

Our region, Asia, is the world’s most disaster-prone region. People in Asia are four times more likely to be affected by disasters caused by natural hazards than those in Africa; and 25 times more likely than those in Europe or North America, based on a UN report.

In the Philippines, the number of documented disasters from natural hazards surged 50 percent last year, making our nation the world’s most disaster-hit country in 2011.

In international climate talks, we have persistently called for climate justice, urging industrialized countries to commit deep cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions and to financially and technologically support climate change adaptation work in vulnerable nations, who have the least responsibility for having caused the climate crisis and have the least capability to deal with its impact.

Today, over half a million Filipinos, so-called “climate refugees” that were displaced by the monsoon rains have suffered irreparable damage on their homes and possessions, adding to the 3,995 families still residing in temporary shelters seven months after Tropical Storm “Sendong.”

We will see more of this situation, perhaps even worse, if we do not stop dealing with disasters on an ad-hoc basis. We have to strengthen initiatives for disaster resilience that have been taking roots in pioneering local communities, their dynamic leaders driving and pushing these initiatives into certain success.

Ultimately, the best choice we have is to make our nation disaster-resilient to free us, once and for all, from the exhausting and costly cycle of rebuilding our communities every single time nature unleashes its wrath.

Let us be the change we seek.

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Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • tekateka

    Everybody say, …… ‘PROUD TO BE PINOY’

    • cute79


      • cute79

        dahil kramihan sa mga pinoy ay likhang matitigas ang ulo!ni basura ni maitapon ng maayos.

      • cute79

        Phils is full of garbage dw,nkkhiya pero totoo nman.

  • kilabot

    your blah blah blah is good. why don’t you now lead the legwork, senator. tell your peers to join you so everybody will follow. you know how filipinos are, need to be hammered to sink in.

    • Marx Louis Wang

       E, ikaw??? hanggang blog ka na lang, galit ka pa!!!  Not all Filipinos are like you!

  • iam zero

    Wow this is really inspiring. To the people of Camotes and Hinatuan, keep up the good work. To the rest of us Filipinos, let’s get our act together and follow in the footsteps of these towns and communities. We can no doubt win this battle. It just takes a little discipline and a change in lifestyle and perspective. No more excuses. 

  • Marx Louis Wang

    Good job, Senator Legarda! Iba na talaga ang may pinag-aralan. Metro-Manila should learn from this localities.

  • jurbinsky77

    To Sen Legarda:

    I support your community cleanliness and environmental health awareness projects. I want to remember you as the Senator who has the practical solution for this perennial problem, no one before has done that except the “ningas-kugon” short-lived project of Imelda Marcos when her husband was the president and she claimed the Metro Manila governorship.

    I have been suggesting to the Dept of Agriculture to distribute garden implements like hose, spades and rakes to the rural areas so that residents can start backyard vegetable raising.

    The Ilocandia people who are known for their industriousness know how to use their implements. There is no need to buy and maintain tractors or beast of burden in order to cultivate idle plots and plant vegetable or fruit trees.

    I remember when I was young, I wrote a letter to a govt agency for some giant ipil-ipil seeds. I received the seeds in a regular letter envelop and I was able to plant them along the fence line of our yard in Bulacan. The trees were fast growing, my parents were able to use them for firewood and the leaves for our carbaos and cows. One time I went home for a short vacation. I saw one of our neighbors who hailed from Baguio, collecting the seeds of the ipil-ipil pods. She said that she pounds them and brew as coffee. I did not try it because my mother forbade me.

    It would be easy for you to set a program for backyard gardening. String beans, squash, gourd, eggplant and tomatoes are easy to grow in rows. You may fund the initial seed requirement, some fertilizer and pesticide for distribution.

    If I can suggest too that a windmill for pumping water for community use, drinking and watering the plants will be a big boost to the program. When I was younger, I asked our governor for some artesian well pipes for my community. Instead of one set, the barangay captain received 3 sets for 3 artesian wells. I failed to follow-up on my project as I was hired to work in the Middle East and later on immigrate to North America.

    To further strengthen the community livelihood efforts,  we can assist the fishermen with bancas and nets (legal ones) and fishing lines. The banca will be jointly owned by the immediate neighbors.

    Please take the above for your consideration. Thank you.

  • kilabot

    if politicians, including you senator, lacks the will to implement common-sense rules, mother nature doesn’t. it implements natural ways of clean-up such as: flood, fire, earthquake, volcanic eruption, plague, disease, sulfur rain, landslide, etc..
    stop talking and start walking, senator. the life saved may be your own.

  • billy gunner

    unfortunately the present dispensation doesnt have the brains to implement small scale projects let alone implement projects of greater magnitude. very sad fact indeed…

  • akimaxx

    Before rebuilding towns and communities, consult first with an urban architect. The general plan which is long range (100 years or more) should be strictly followed by all the mayors. Divide the whole project into phases, development and construction will depend on the budget. One phase at a time. Let’s garbage ‘build and destroy’ mentally, projects acknowledged to credit-hungry politicians. 

    Climate change can teach us lessons. We should adapt ourselves to the changing times.
    Good planning and implementation without corruption will result to rebuilding the nation, the soonest.

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