Rising water in Santa Fe

by Isabella Mendoza

Bantayan Island—it’s a  place one hour off the western coast of mainland Cebu. With white sand beaches and abundant seafood, Bantayan has long been a popular destination of locals and foreigners. Yet behind this fair façade lies a plethora of problems made worse by climate change.

ICSC’s partnership with CORDAID is rooted in fostering a collaborative climate finance ecosystem and supporting efforts by local governments to develop evidence-based action plans that adapt to the challenges posed by the climate crisis. In the wake of recent collaborative success in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, when town officials delivered vital documents to the Commission on Climate Change (CCC), including their pioneering Climate Change Adaptation Framework (CCAF), the partnership has now extended its hand further into the Visayas Region to the Municipality of Santa Fe, Cebu.

The primary purpose of our first visit was to conduct a two-day planning workshop. The officers of Santa Fe walked us through the results of recent studies and vulnerability assessments—foundational elements to formulating the town’s Local Climate Change Action Plan (LCCAP). We learned their access to fresh water is threatened by multiple factors, including salt water intrusion; beach front establishments are slowly losing their coastlines while environmental protection zones are still in need of major rehabilitation five years after Yolanda.

Joining ICSC in the activity were partners from Visayas State University, a team of four scientists conducting research on climate-induced local slow onset events (SOE). Their research focuses on three climate impacts: rising sea levels, sea surface temperature, and ocean acidification. These particular impacts are most crucial in the context of coastal communities, especially when combined with the impact of flawed development policies,. They often go “unnoticed” due to their creeping nature but as we visited various areas in Santa Fe, the things communities said they’ve been experiencing were undeniable.  

In the barangay of Talisay, we heard stories from fishermen of how they once brought home 200 kilos of fish from one trip out to sea. They now settle for 10 or even five kilos. A quick boat ride brought us to Hilantagaan island where we saw with our own eyes the reality of sea level rise. Locals say over the last 20 years, and most drastically in the last five years since Yolanda, an estimated 40 meters of their coastline has been lost. Just last month, a house made of cement was left destroyed during a rough southwest monsoon.  The waves now crash a mere couple of feet away from houses that remain standing.

Research on SOE, which will be conducted with the help of local fisher volunteers, will contribute evidence and scientific backing to planning efforts by local government officials.

In the face of these challenges, Santa Fe officials have been working with CORDAID over the last few months to build their LCCAP and create plans to adapt and develop their own version of resilience. The two-day planning workshop with the town’s department heads is heading towards better planning that incorporates the locality’s ecosystems, social structures and capacities. Officials expressed their eagerness to push the bar further while seeking funding through portals like the People’s Survival Fund and other adaptation fund sources.

Though still very early in the process, municipality contributions to developing individual LCCAPs, in partnership with local private sector stakeholders, communities and state universities and colleges, comprise what for ICSC are necessary first steps towards a more resilient, sustainable future for the island and its inhabitants. We need to see the process through together and turn plans into action.

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