Senatorial bets: Stronger LGUs, green tech for disaster-resilient PH
MANILA, Philippines – Three senatorial bets said strenghtening the capacity of local government units (LGUs) and promoting green technology can help mitigate the impact of climate change on vulnerable communities, as well as help victims recover in the aftermath of natural calamities.
In a forum organized by the Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) on Thursday, March 3, senatorial candidates Rafael Alunan III, Lorna Kapunan, and Francis Tolentino discussed how they plan to make the Philippines more resilient to climate change.
They were also asked how they plan to address the basic needs of disaster victims, particularly when it came to housing.
In 2013, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) wreaked havoc across Central Philippines, displacing thousands of families. But the rehabilitation of affected communities stands at only 30% completion.
In December 2015, the government said only 13,355 housing units have been completed for survivors. Construction is ongoing for 79,219 housing units, scheduled to be completed by December 2016. (READ: IN NUMBERS: 2 years after Typhoon Yolanda)
Stronger LGUs, incentives for green tech
For former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino, LGUs are at the forefront of disaster response. Local officials know the needs and challenges faced by their communities, and they will be the first responders on the ground when disaster strikes, Tolentino said.
To effectively respond to typhoons – before, during, and after it hits – the national government must provide LGUs with more funds so local officials can respond quickly. (READ: Tolentino pushes for 'disaster recovery and rehab' in Senate bid)
He also proposed amending provisions of the Local Government Code to strengthen the capacities of LGUs.
"It needs to be adapted to current times. The Local Government Code was created 24 years ago, there was no talk of climate change then," Tolentino said.
To help victims in the aftermath of natural calamities, Tolentino proposed setting up a Philippine Disaster Reconstruction Agency, a body solely dedicated to the rehabilitation of disaster-hit areas.
"After 72 hours, dapat ang pinag-uusapan na ang recovery....Kasama doon ang business continuity plan, paano makakabangon ang negosyo, para makarating kaagad sa normal na pamumuhay," Tolentino said.
(After 72 hours, we should be talking about recovery...It includes the business continuity plan, how businesses can operate again, so that we can quickly go back to normal.)
Aside from improving coordination between LGUs and the national government, lawyer Lorna Kapunan said stronger climate change mitigation efforts should involve the private sector.
But to get them on board, Kapunan said the government must be able to speak to them in a language they understand: by making it cheaper for businesses to invest in environment-friendly techology.
"Give incentives to businesses that promote renewable energy initiatives, either by tax reduction or research grants," Kapunan said.
Solving the housing problem
Kapunan also said there was a link between the fight against climate change and addressing the need for adequate housing.
"You can't address the issue of climate change without addressing issues of migration," Kapunan said.
Survivors in disaster-hit areas are often forced to relocate to areas far from what they had once considered home. In urban environments, informal settlers are moved to far-flung provinces that take them away from jobs and livelihood opportunities.
Kapunan said providing sufficient employment is necessary to help survivors rebuild their lives.
Meanwhile, Tolentino proposed that LGUs set aside a percentage of their funds derived from real property tax for special housing funds.
He also proposed the use of funds from the Conditional Cash Transfer program – the Aquino administration's flagship poverty alleviation program – to help the housing sector, especially victims of natural calamities.
Tolentino also suggested tapping the private sector by offering tax incentives to property developers who comply with a government requirement to provide socialized housing equivalent to 20% of a housing project's cost.
Meanwhile, former interior secterary Alunan said the housing problem is worsened because of poor governance.
"The role of government is to uplift the people's quality of life....Our problem is poor governance, because we have the wrong people in place," he said.
Alunan, Kapunan, and Tolentino are all running for the Senate in the May 2016 polls.
Alunan and Tolentino are running as independent candidates, while Kapunan is running under the ticket of Senator Grace Poe. – Rappler.com
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