300 PH towns to get climate change funds by 2016

Pia Ranada
300 PH towns to get climate change funds by 2016
A fund of around P40 million is proposed to help make Philippine towns more resilient to climate change and prepared for disasters

MANILA, Philippines – By the end of President Benigno Aquino III’s term, at least 300 municipalities should receive assistance from the national government in planning for climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM).

Climate Change Commission vice chair Lucille Sering told a Senate panel deliberating the agency’s proposed 2015 budget on Wednesday, October 1, that the initiative is to be major undertaking of the commission.

The Senate approved that day the agency’s proposed budget of P78.25 million (US$1.7 million*), which the House of Representatives approved on September 26. 

Nearly half of this amount, or P37.5 million ($834,000), will be used to help the first 150 towns mainstream climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction and management. Assistance for the remaining 150 towns will come in 2016. 

“Mainstreaming” means weaving in ways for the local government unit to adapt to climate change impacts and prepare for disasters into their planning instead of treating the two as separate from other aspects of the LGU. (INFOGRAPHIC: 6 ways climate change will affect PH cities)

For instance, some LGUs tend to give the national government-provided multi-hazard maps only to their DRRM office instead of their planning office as well. 

“The multi-hazard [map] should be used primarily by the planning office to which the DRR would be part of. If you only give it to the DRR and it’s not part of the planning, it won’t be in sync with the land use planning all together,” explained Sering.

The persistent problem, said Sering, is that LGU officials tend to focus on disaster response instead of preparation. Hence, they use the 5%-calamity fund of their Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) on buying rescue boats, flashlights, safety vests and the like. 

But climate change adaptation and risk reduction management are ways by which LGUs can prepare for disaster and lessen destruction wrought by calamities. (READ: Gov’t adopts new strategy for climate change resiliency)

It entails preparing all sectors of society for the changing climate and natural disasters. For instance, flood-prone towns can promote the use of flood-tolerant crops to their farmers. Houses should not be allowed in landslide or storm surge-prone areas. Rivers should be managed properly in case of a predicted drought.

The Commission has piloted the mainstreaming of CCA and DRRM in select LGUs, called ecotowns, to serve as a guide for its nationwide implementation.

The positive results from these ecotowns had convinced Aquino to approve funding for 300 more towns, said Sering.

More climate-resilient PH towns

The budget will allow the Commission to provide technical assistance for the towns in crafting a Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP). 

This would map out areas of the town that are prone to hazards like flooding, landslides, sea level rise, and storm surge. (READ: Climate Change Commission unveils first climate change map)

It would also help determine which parcels of agricultural land are well-suited for certain crops given the predicted warming of the climate. The plan will also give the town an accounting of their natural resources such as water sources and biodiversity.

The data is supposed to help LGUs plan their development so that they will be less vulnerable to disasters and the impacts of a changing climate which include rising sea levels, more extreme weather events, and intense droughts. (READ: Scientists bare findings of 1st PH climate change report)

The 150 towns to receive assistance will be chosen based on their vulnerability to hazards and their finances.

Towns proven by government multi-hazard maps to be significantly prone to landslides, flooding or storm surge will be given priority, as will 3rd, 4th and 5th class towns.  

Aside from the Commission’s assistance, Sering said a new joint memorandum circular now allows LGUs to tap the rest of their budget for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, rather than just the 5%-calamity fund.

“Their whole IRA is open for this purpose so the LGU won’t be restricted. They don’t have a reason not to plan based on their vulnerabilities,” she said. 

However, Senator Loren Legarda, who chairs the Senate Committee on Climate Change insisted that the Commission add another 100 towns to their target of 300 to be covered by 2016.

Ideally, there should be CLUPs for all cities and municipalities in the country, numbering more than 1,600, she said.

Sering said they would work with the budget to try to cover more LGUs.

Calamity funds for 2015 

If the proposed national budget is approved, the country will have P14 billion ($311 million) in the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF).

The NDDRMF will be used for aid, relief and rehabilitation services to calamity-hit communities, disaster preparation, and the repair and reconstruction of damaged permanent structures.

The proposed 2015 fund is higher than the 2014 budget of P13 billion due to the addition of P1 billion ($22.2 million) for the People’s Survival Fund, a fund meant to help LGUs adapt to climate change and prepare for disasters. 

But aside from the NDRRMF, a Quick Response Fund is lodged under the budgets of specific government agencies.

Their allocations for 2015 are as follows: 

Department and Office Quick Respond Fund

Department of Social Welfare and Development, Office of the Secretary

P1.325 billion

Department of Trade and Communication, Office of the Secretary

P1 billion

Department of Education, Office of the Secretary

 P1 billion
 Department of Public Works and Highways, Office of the Secretary  P800 million
 Department of National Defense, Office of Civil Defense  P530 million
 Department of Agriculture, Office of the Secretary  P500 million

Department of Health, Office of the Secretary 

 P500 million
 National Irrigation Administration  P500 million
 Department of National Defense, Office of the Secretary  P352.5 million

 

Sering said one use for the PSF being considered by its board is to provide insurance to local governments hit by disaster, thus making them less dependent on the national government for recovery.

“The initial plan of the PSF use is for the risk-transfer mechanism which is to allow LGUs to access insurance for their local income,” she explained.

But the PSF, signed into law in 2012, cannot be accessed unless President Benigno Aquino III signs its implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

The IRR has been pending for his approval since May 2013, said Sering, 6 months before Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). The typhoon, said to be the strongest to make landfall in recent history, devastated towns and cities in Eastern Visayas which, theoretically, should have been able to tap the PSF if the IRR had been signed. 

Legarda, who authored the PSF law, expressed her dismay that the IRR has yet to be green-lighted by Aquino. 

“Perhaps there is a technical problem….Before the session resumes on October 20, the IRR should be signed,” she insisted.

She said the operationalization of the fund is crucial especially after the President made a commitment to the international community to be at the forefront of climate change adaptation during the UN Climate Summit in New York City on September 23. (READ: Grading Aquino: Climate change action needs improvement– Rappler.com

*$1 = P44.9

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.