Why Pnoy should prioritize climate change before his term ends

In 2013, the Philippines was named the country most affected by climate change. The Philippines has also been constantly ranked as one of the top 10 countries in terms of climate change vulnerability.But while world leaders are busy debating over how to mitigate carbon emissions, Filipinos are busy fighting for their lives.Climate change impacts such as extreme El Niño, changing weather patterns, and severe weather events have been felt by Filipinos and have already posed a threat to lives and livelihood.

Escalation of uncertainties

Agriculture and food security, for example, are facing problems due to these impacts. In fact, in the Cordilleras alone, changing weather patterns and climate-change triggered calamities have affected farmers.

According to a United Nations-Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO) report by Dr. Roberto Sandoval Jr. and Stephen Baas, “Climate change has escalated the uncertainties in the region’s agricultural production as the increased occurrence, intensity, and length of rainfall events – which consequently increase erosion rates, trigger landslides, and make certain crops susceptible to diseases – have impacted crop production in the region, particularly during the crops’ critical growth stages.”

In 2013, typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) ravaged Eastern Visayas, leaving more than 6,000 people dead. The rehabilitation and and recovery of the region will take years. People pointed to different factors that contributed to this amount devastation: from the government’s lack of preparation to a lack of understanding of the term “storm surge.”

Peoples Survival Fund and Climate Change Act of 2009

According to the United Nations, there are two reasons for the Philippines’ vulnerability: geography, and lack of mechanisms to cope with climate change. This means that not only is the Philippines located in the typhoon belt, but that there are also gaps in policies and actions that will aid in reducing the risks of communities in facing these impacts.
RA 10174, also known as the People’s Survival Fund (PSF) was enacted into law in 2012. The law aims to create a 1 billion peso fund to help local communities implement their local climate change adaptation plan (LCCAP) that will give them more resiliency in the face of climate change and its impacts.
However, it is only in January of this year that the government has agreed on the criteria for selecting local government units (LGU) who want to access the PSF for their LCCAP. In addition, the Manual of Operations needed by the PSF Board, the body that will issue final approval of projects for the use of the fund, has not yet been signed by either President Benigno Aquino or Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa.
And while a Local Climate Change Adaptation for Development (LCCAD) has been created to help mentor LGU’s in the crafting and implementation of their LCCAP, LCCAD has identified barriers as fundamental as limited knowledge and understanding of disaster risk reduction and climate change among LGU’s.
Incapacity through insufficient capacity
The mainstreaming of climate change in the government has been enacted through RA 9729 or the Climate Change Act of 2009. However six years after its passage, not all LGU’s have the capacity for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation (DRR-CCA). The Commission on Audit, in their 2014 report entitled “Assessment of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) at the Local Level” identified issues such as understaffing of Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices.
According to the report, “only two-thirds or 67% of organic LDRRMOs have a complete staff in-charge or research and planning, administration and training, and operations and warning.” In addition, “mayors who serve as incident commanders may not have the necessary skills on disaster or emergency operations.” Even raising public awareness proved to be lacking as the report cited instructional, educational, and communication (IEC) materials and guides on DRRM to be “insufficient in substance and form.”
Climate Change laws need more teeth
Many have already described the Climate Change Act of 2009 as “lacking teeth” and have called out the slow implementation of the People’s Survival Fund.
This ineffective implementation of the laws only means that the risks faced by communities also remain high. With low capacity to adapt to climate change and its impacts, people’s lives and livelihood continue to be threatened.
We need to call on the president to fast track the signing of the Manual of Operations for the PSF Board in order to start the ball rolling on the implementation of PSF. We need to call on the Climate Change Commission to ensure the mainstreaming of climate change and to ensure that every LGU has the capacity for DRR-CCA. We need to have policies that are effective. We need to start building our resiliency amidst the changing climate.
The climate is changing and it is changing fast. With stronger typhoons, longer El Niño, and rising sea levels, if the government does not act now, our very survival remains to be in danger.

Originally published in GMA News.