Iloilo pioneers in Climate Adaptation and Sustainability
Rjay Zuriaga Castor | The Manila Times
PHILIPPINES. The Manila Times (11 October 2023) - Iloilo is grappling with the severe impacts of climate change but the local government is adapting through the "Movement for a Robust, Progressive, Globally Competitive, and Resilient (MoRPRoGRes) Province of Iloilo."
Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. is strategically driving a development mantra with MoRPRoGRes Iloilo. Among its tenets is adopting more sustainable practices and enhancing the local communities' resilience to climate-related challenges.
"The effects of climate change here in Iloilo are severe and that is the reason why we have to adapt to it, why we have an attitudinal adjustment and approach. The attitude and the approach, we treat it as a matter of national emergency. Our climate change response is embedded in regular programming under other departments from social welfare, education and environmental management," Defensor said.
Defensor believes that climate change demands a whole-of-province approach. It should permeate all facets of development, with response and adaptation integrated into every aspect of the growth and progress, hence, he said "the development mantra is our driving force in addressing climate change."
The programs and initiatives are embedded in the province's disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation enhanced development and physical framework plan.
As natural carbon sinks, Defensor also believes that tree planting and growing is a valuable strategy in adapting to global warming.
In 2019, "Tanum Iloilo," a simultaneous province-wide tree-planting activity targeting 1.5 million trees, was launched.
4 months after the seedlings were planted, the Provincial Government Environment and Natural Resources Office's (PGENRO) monitoring teams coordinated with town and barangay officials to conduct spot checks in the areas to ensure the survivability and sustainability of the planted trees.
"It is a climate change response because it is our program for the sustainable management and conservation of our forest that is why we need a whole-province approach there. One of the effects of climate change is it does increase the volume of the rain. If there are not enough trees in our uplands, we will experience more serious floods," Defensor said.
He said that the program's core objective is straightforward and that is to restore and replenish the local forest ecosystem while ensuring the responsible and sustainable use of forest resources.
"The attitudinal adjustment that we also want is to make tree planting and growing a habit among the Ilonggo, not just when we have programs or activities for it," he added.
The trees planted are those that are endemic to the area to reduce the risk of introducing invasive species that can harm the environment and as an ecologically responsible approach to reforestation and ecosystem restoration.
According to the PGENRO, the seedlings were sourced from the nurseries of each town. Some saplings are also from the Agri-Aqua Research and Technology Center in Pototan town, which is under the administration of the provincial government.
More recently, the province embarked on a greening initiative at the 19-kilometer road from the Iloilo International Airport in Cabatuan town to the national highway.
Climate change exacerbates water scarcity and for the provincial government of Iloilo, every raindrop counts.
In 2022, the provincial council allocated a budget of P912,000 to implement rainwater harvesting projects in all eight towns of the province.
"We must maximize our water resources. What's important for us is water control and utilization. Our problem in Iloilo is we lack water or there is too much of it but we control water, we can maximize its use as a resource," Defensor said.
He said that most of these projects, particularly ferrocement water tanks are in schools to also teach students about water conservation, sustainable practices and augment water supply during dry season.
Defensor also shared that the tanks are used to harvest large volumes of rainwater and make flood-prone areas less vulnerable.
Notably, Iloilo is the first province in the country to pass an ordinance that gears the transition to renewable energy.
In October last year, the Provincial Board approved the ordinance, which is the counterpart for Republic Act 9513 or the Renewable Energy Act.
"What we want is that we do our share in using renewable energy. It is also our way of developing it since renewable energy is still a developing source in the province. It is our way of welcoming it. We are starting with the facilities of the province, our hospitals and we are exploring it," he said.
Among the facilities that currently use renewable energy in the province are the Iloilo Provincial Hospital in Pototan town through a 75-kilowatt(kW) rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system and around eight buildings in Concepcion town which are energized by an 80 kW peak solar PV and 15 Kilowtt peak (kWp) hybrid grid solar battery system.
In the 2023 provincial budget, P30 million has been allocated to foster the advancement of renewable energy sources. Specifically, three public hospitals have been identified for the rooftop photovoltaic installation.
Defensor said the province is also targeting existing renewable energy sources, including mini-hydroelectric power facilities, especially in the highland villages.
A climate-resilient Iloilo
The province is also helping the communities to be resilient against climate change.
With the construction of its state-of-the-art civil defense operations hubs or climate resilience hubs, Iloilo is fast-tracking response and efficient coordination in times of disasters and emergencies. The construction is underway in the towns of Miagao, Banate, Estancia and Carles.
"We want to have them in municipalities that are at risk for typhoons and flooding. We want resilience hubs to connect to our Provincial Civil Defense Operation Center in the Capitol," Defensor said.
In March 2023, the provincial government released a total of P28 million for the construction. of such hubs.
Apart from further strengthening the comprehensive climate and disaster resilience programs of the province, he added that the hubs will also serve as the central locations for coordinating and overseeing environmental management efforts at the community level.
Defensor revealed that he is eyeing to construct a total of 15 operation hubs before his term ends.
Moreover, the province is also taking a critical step towards environmentally sustainable communities through its "Purok Resilience" program.
The program, outlined in Executive Order 333, is a small-scale, localized and socialized housing project tailored to communities in disaster prone regions.
"Purok Resilience is a climate change response. We transfer residents in the riverbanks and landslide prone areas to a relocation site that is near their families and livelihoods. It is also not just about building houses and relocating people, but establishing communities and reestablishing lives," Defensor said.
With a partnership with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme or UN-Habitat, the province is gearing up for a bold initiative of transitioning toward a climate-resilient, low-carbon, and biodiversity-friendly Iloilo.
The province of Iloilo is among the recipients in the country of the Transformative Actions for Climate and Ecological Protection and Development (Transcend) project. The project aims to help local communities harness biodiversity and ecosystem services for climate adaptation through a landscape-based strategy that emphasizes holistic urban planning.
The 6-year project, funded by the International Climate Initiative through the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, will assist the province in accelerating its implementation of climate change policies, particularly its Purok Resilience program.
"We were introduced to UN-Habitat because our Purok Resilience is unique and it has no counterpart to the national government's housing program. The UN-Habitat became interested in the concept, especially that it is a climate change response," Defensor said.
He explained that with the partnership, UN-Habitat can help the province in the technical aspect, especially in infusing more science into its implementation.
The Transcend project is set to have its full implementation beginning in November 2023 and the impacts are expected to become evident by 2029 with Iloilo having improved policies for its urban ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change.
With most programs designed as a whole-province approach, Defensor emphasized that the success so far and continuity of the programs to adapt to climate change relies on the strong collaboration of the stakeholders.
"We meet the collaboration that we need from our partners because all our programs in the province are convergence programs. We saw the cooperation of everyone and we even saw that they have counterpart programs of their own," he said.
What's even more crucial, in the overarching goal for a climate-adaptive and resilient Iloilo, is the robust support of the local communities.
"We have the municipalities and the barangay in our Movement for a robust, progressive, globally competitive and resilient Province of Iloilo," said Defensor.
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