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Legislating for Climate Change: LGU initiatives towards mitigation and adaptation
by Jane Cadalig

Untitled Document The Cordillera region is one of the testaments of a locality with numerous communities vulnerable to natural disasters.

And with several calamities now taking their toll on various localities all over the globe brought about by the rapidly changing climate, the remaining option of local government units (LGUs) is to formulate and implement measures that must be adopted by their respective constituencies on a mandatory and massive basis.

Climate Change experts claim that responding to disasters has only become a second option, emphasizing that pro-active moves against the impacts of disasters, like increasing the adaptive capacity levels of the local governments, are more feasible, less costly, and could save more lives and properties.

All over the region, various LGUs, including government line agencies and non-government organizations, are stepping up their efforts to equip communities on Climate Change alleviation and adaptation.

Among the steps adopted by LGUs in the Cordillera is the creation of their respective Disaster Risk Reduction Management councils/offices as mandated by one of the country’s legislated responses to the Climate Change phenomenon – Republic Act 10121 or the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act of 2010.

The region is claimed to have the most volume of rainfall in a year, and communities here, aside from being prone to landslide occurrences, usually triggered by heavy and continuous rains, have also become prone to flooding.

Increased amount of rainfall is one of the negative Climate Change scenarios in the Philippines. As projected by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration, the average annual increase in rainfall over most parts of Luzon, the Cordillera included, would be between two and 17 percent by year 2020 and between one and 16 percent by 2050. This projection was made based on the downscaling made by PAGASA of the Hadley Center’s global climate model, PRECIS, which stands for Providing REgional Climates for Impact Studies. PRECIS was developed to help generate Climate Change information for as many regions of the world as possible in order that these regions may develop scenarios that can be used in impact, vulnerability, and adaptation studies, among the other objectives.

To forewarn communities on the possibility of being victimized by flooding or landslide occurrences, which usually happen when the ground becomes too saturated, LGUs embraced the idea of an early warning system.

A pro-active measure, the early warning system entails the installation of devices such as rain gauges in the region’s provinces. The put up of this simple and affordable technology is done with the help of the Department of Science and Technology, which offered its expertise in fabricating the equipment.

The device has been introduced in Kayan, Tadian in Mountain Province, one of the villages that suffered nature’s toll in 2009 when most part of the village was buried in a massive landslide brought about by Typhoon Pepeng.

In Baguio City, Barangay Lourdes Extension is also among the communities that has become a host to the rain gauge.

The rain gauge serves as an early warning system for the city during the rainy months. Accordingly, forced evacuation of residents would be imposed if the equipment has collected 150mm of water in 24 hours.

To further the city’s climate change adaptive capacity, mayor Mauricio Domogan also issued an administrative order creating the Task Force on Climate Change Adaptation. The task force would lead the implementation of the Asian Cities Adapt project, a program that aims to increase the awareness, knowledge, and capacity of local governments to reduce the impacts of Climate Change.

The creation of the task force is anchored on the Memorandum of Understanding Baguio City entered with ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainable Asia Inc. for the implementation of the Clean Cities Adapt project.

Complementary to the early warning system is the conduct of massive tree planting activities as another pro-active solution to the impacts of Climate Change. The national government recently launched the National Greening Program (NGP), which aims to plant at least 1.5 billion trees in around 1.5 million hectares of land all over the country from the current year up to 2016.

The NGP is perceived as a solution to the widespread deforestation.

Data from the Philippine Biodiversity Assessment shows that the Philippines’ forest lands currently stand at 7.2 million hectares, which is only 24.27 percent of the country’s total land area. This problem is attributed to combined effects of indiscriminate logging, lack of forest protection measures, conflicting policies, expansion of agricultural lands, fires, pests and diseases attacking tree species, and unplanned land conversions.

The same data shows that of the remaining jungles, only 0.8 million hectares of primary forests remain, considered as alarming because these remaining virgin forests are the repository of the country’s gene pool.

The country’s situation as a critical hotspot – with more than 800 of its plant and animal species threatened with extinction – is considered a great concern as the Philippines in general, and the Cordillera in particular, is said to be globally important in terms of biodiversity-dependent adaptation.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is now leading the implementation of the NGP, which targets the country-wide planting of trees in forestlands, mangrove and protected areas, ancestral domains, civil and military reservations, urban areas that are covered by the greening plans of LGUs, and inactive and abandoned mines, among the other areas suitable for planting.

Cordillera’s contribution to the NGP would be the reforestation of 6,838 hectares of land all over the region in six years time. In Bauko, Mountain Province, tree planting has been made an institutionalized program. In fact, a municipal ordinance mandates that all applicants for marriage certificates should first plant fruit-bearing trees as pre-requisite to the issuance of their license.

Under the town’s Ordinance No. 009, all couples applying for a marriage license at the Office of the Municipal Civil Registrar must have planted five fruit-bearing seedlings either in private lots and/or public lots such as school sites or barangay owned lots within the municipality.

Certification from the punong barangay indicating the planting five fruit-bearing seedlings should be attached as one of the requirements when couples apply for marriage license.Violation of the stated requirement is a denial to an application for marriage license.

The nearby town of Tadian has a similar ordinance. The only difference is that, the couple should present the certification of completion from the barangay captain before their marriage license is released.

In Banaue, Ifugao, mayor Jerry Dalipog is following up the implementation of the program which seeks to reforest 500 hectares of communal forests. He is optimistic that the program, which has long been on the drawing board, would finally be implemented during his term.

The program, Dalipog said, includes the propagation of seedlings through the nurseries to be established by the municipality, funding of which would be worked out with the Development Bank of the Philippines through a grant.

In Dolores, Abra, a municipal administrative order mandates every graduate in the town to plant trees. Mayor Roberto Seares Jr. said this is among the local government’s efforts to mitigate Climate Change impacts. Farmers in the municipality, and all over the province, are also encouraged to plant bamboos along the river banks. Anti-illegal logging operations are also being stepped up if only to discourage the wanton cutting of trees and to complement the tree planting efforts. The Philippine National Police in close coordination with the DENR have been aggressively apprehending illegal loggers.

To give meaning to the intensified anti-illegal logging efforts, some localities like Pinukpuk town in Kalinga, halted the issuance of permits for the transport of timber products that do not have documents proving that these came from legal sources.

Also in Natonin, Mountain Province, a task force was formed to go after illegal loggers, which supports the town’s ordinance banning illegal tree cutting and the kaingin (slash-and-burn) system, considered as among the main culprits of forest degradation.

Mountain Province Gov. Leonard Mayaen said that there is no other feasible way of addressing unlawful logging operations than to implement an iron-fist in dealing with illegal loggers and by strictly implementing the law governing this practice.

While the region does not contribute much to Climate Change, it has to do its share in solving the problem, according to Mayaen.

The region’s river system is still another resource eyed as one of the keys to Climate Change adaptation. River Basin Management has been listed as among the adaptation approaches under the country’s national framework strategy on Climate Change.

Mountain Province, which has been pestered by communities living downstream the Chico River, has now vowed to come up with its own garbage disposal facility to discourage waste dumping along the river to prevent it from further being polluted.

Likewise in Hingyon, Ifugao, town officials crafted an ordinance mandating each village in the municipality to protect their respective bodies of water.

Reforestation, installation of early warning systems, and river systems protection and preservation are only among the various ways the local government units are initiating as mitigating and adaptive responses to the challenges posed by the global problem on Climate Change.

But these moves, legislated or otherwise, would prove futile if the public fails to cooperate and do their part in helping lessen the region’s vulnerability to the impacts of this worldwide phenomenon.
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