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P500M allotted for People's Survival Fund, ecotowns

MANILA, Philippines – The government has allotted P500 million in People's Survival Fund (PSF) to help make local government units (LGUs) more resilient to climate change and prepared for calamities.

This amount, however, is still "unprogrammed," meaning the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is yet to identify sources for the fund, Climate Change Commission Assistant Secretary Joyceline Goco said on Monday, November 25, at the Greeneration Summit organized by the CCC.

"The government has put in P500 million, unprogrammed, meaning they're still looking for a source. I don't know how it will be done by the DBM."

Much of the funds will go to the ecotown program, a CCC initiative which helps LGUs create and implement climate change adaptation programs.

Climate change, caused by the warming of the planet due to greenhouse gases, can lead to droughts, heatwaves, storm surge, and stronger typhoons, which LGUs must prepare for. These impacts could severely endanger agriculture, food security, health, and fisheries being sectors sensitive to changes in climate.

Goco acknowlged, however, that P500 million is not enough to kickstart the ecotown transformation of the more than 1,400 municipalities and 143 cities in the Philippines.

It took P2.5 million to start the project in San Vicente, Palawan, one of the 18 pilot ecotowns. (READ: San Vicente, Palawan: The rise of the ecotown)

According to Republic Act 10174, which created the fund, the PSF is supposed to receive P1 billion under the General Appropriations Act.

MAINSTREAMING ADAPTATION. Climate Change Commission Assistant Secretary Joyceline Goco dreams of the day when all LGUs in the Philippines are ecotowns.

Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler

The CCC is looking for other sources for the fund.

One possible source can be the LGUs' internal revenue allotment or IRA, their share of revenues from the national government. The LGUs' climate change adaptation projects can also be funded by its Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (DDRMF) since these projects help reduce vulnerability to disasters.

The fund can also come from the budgets of various national agencies also working toward climate change adaptation like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Health.

Another option is to tap international partners and foreign aid. USAID, AusAid, and Germany's GIZ are just some of the organizations the commission works with. 

The road to ecotown

There are now 18 ecotown demonstration sites all over the country. They include San Vicente, Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte, Batanes, and LGUs in the Upper Marikina River Basin and Eastern Samar.

The governent's target is to have all LGUs to be ecotowns by 2028, able to withstand the climate change-related disasters which scientists project will only get worse. (READ: After Yolanda/Haiyan: The worst is yet to come)

The set of implementing rules and regulations (IRR), which sets down how LGUs can go about becoming an ecotown, is now with President Benigno Aquino III and will be signed soon, said Goco.

"Once there is an IRR, we will inform the LGUs that there is this support and how they can access the support. We will tell them the requirements and the process as well," she added.

LGUs have to apply to make use of the People's Survival Fund. 

They are expected to craft poject proposals for the climate change measures they want to start. These are then submitted to the People's Survival Fund Board. The board – composed of scientists, experts, and CCC officials – will evaluate the proposals and give funding to deserving and needy LGUs.

"The proposal should be science-based, it should have gone through a process of identification. It can't be just because the LGU official wants it. There has to be a basis of need. We don't want to waste the resources on a certain project for adaptation," said Goco.

Mainstreaming adaptation

But though funds are not yet available, the CCC is already mainstreaming climate change adaptation in LGUs through other means.

Working with the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, they have integrated the ecotown process into the board's local development plan. They are also looking at revising the country's Building Code to require walls to withstand more than 300 kilometer per hour winds, like the winds brought by Yolanda. At the moment, the code only requires buildings to withstand 250 kph winds.

The commission has provided resource books to provincial planning officers and various LGUs.

"We are converging with other different national government agencies. What we did is really look at the entry points. Where can we insert climate change adaptation and mitigation in their processes?" Goco said.

The onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which killed more than 5,200 people and caused billions worth of damage, highlights the need for communities to adapt to climate change. – Rappler.com 

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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