by Isabella Mendoza
Photos by AC Dimatatac/ICSC

Time and again, we have emphasized that locals can and should take the lead in making their communities more climate resilient. We are proud that ICSC’s partnership with CORDAID has continued to cross political and geographic boundaries in working together towards this common goal. Over the past six months, our work has involved six municipalities across four provinces in the Haiyan Corridor (Eastern Samar, Palawan, Surigao and Cebu) and 4 non-government organizations (ICSC, CORDAID-Philippines, HIPADA and Rain Foundation).

A few months ago, we met as an alliance for the first time to share and review each of their Climate Change Adaptation Frameworks (CCAF) and Local Climate Change Action Plans (LCCAP). During these discussions, we agreed that the primary concern in these island and coastal municipalities is water management, particularly the quality and quantity of their freshwater resources.

For example, Coron, Palawan struggles with water quality from their upstream watersheds, often caused by contamination from landslides from typhoons. On the other hand, Guiuan, Eastern Samar faces low supply of freshwater, especially during dry season, because of the area’s lack of a watershed or river systems – on top of the evident and impending saltwater intrusion caused by sea level rise. Their problems, though different in form, are all linked to the changes in rainfall patterns and intensity, and prolonged dry seasons.

This week we’ve come together again, despite the onslaught of Typhoon Hanna, for a learning exchange on Recharge, Retention and Reuse (3R) technology for water management. Our speaker from Rain Foundation provided a crash course on strategies where we learned how 3R can be a low cost, high impact strategy for water management by providing replicable, scalable and community-led interventions for surface and groundwater management. These interventions include constructing natural trenches, gulley traps, reforestation, and terracing.

A highlight from the exchange was a field visit to Barangay Malawig, a community of Tagbanua Indigenous Peoples that have been practicing 3R for the last three years, with evident benefits to their far-flung community. Malawig is part of the ancestral domains in the northern part of Coron, which is currently accessible only by a one-hour van ride and 20-minute boat ride.

Prior to their 3R interventions, Malawig struggled with an unsustainable water source for daily uses, especially during dry seasons. Their Bantay Gubat volunteers then built gully traps and enhanced in-take systems and regular reforestation and monitoring to slow down the flow of surface water, as well as increase the water being absorbed by the soil to recharge their groundwater. This helped them maximize wasted run-off water and allowing the stored groundwater to continue to filter and provide water even through the dry seasons. Their natural water supply became more consistent and sustainable without major infrastructure.

Using their respective CCAF as a basis for looking at 3R strategies with a climate lens, the six municipalities were quick to churn out lists of ideas for different applications of 3R in their respective areas – from possible trenching and infiltration pits for low lying areas to gully traps and forestation in upstream river systems. The 3R tech definitely provides an alternative and a swift change of pace from the usual dam construction and large scale water pipe/irrigation systems. On its own, it has the potential to solve many problems through simple, natural and proper environment management, but we realized it may also be an ideal strategy for climate adaptation.

Despite their different backgrounds, our partners from municipalities across the Philippines are finding common ground in their climate vulnerabilities, creating an opportunity for them to learn and develop strong, common solutions. We are privileged to continue learning from them and helping see their plans through to implementation.###

Isabella Ann Mendoza is a climate policy analyst of ICSC.