by Niña Nicole Cerilla

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nini is a climate policy analyst of ICSC.

Tacloban City holds a core memory for Filipinos who lived through 2013: that year, the most catastrophic typhoon in Philippine history, Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda), struck many communities in the Philippines, hitting first the Eastern Visayas region. 

At 14 years old and living 400 miles away from Tacloban, I still remember seeing the thousands of victims cry for help as I watched the news behind the TV screen. Haiyan’s destructive waves and winds disrupted more than 16 million lives in Eastern, Western, and Central Visayas. It was one of the strongest and most devastating typhoons ever recorded in the Philippines, and left an estimated 6,300 deaths and PHP 89 billion in damages in its wake. 

After the storm, the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) was one of the many civil society organizations that assisted Tacloban in the aftermath by equipping communities with emergency response and disaster preparedness through renewable energy (RE). To this day, ICSC’s RE-Charge Pilipinas (RCP) team trains frontliners across the country, and even beyond, on utilizing Solar TekPaks, portable energy devices that provide power during emergencies and blackouts. By engaging different sectors—including vulnerable communities, local government units, and the academe—the RCP initiative aims to drive RE innovations toward climate resiliency and inclusive low-carbon development. 

Why are we still in Eastern Visayas?

Almost a decade after Haiyan turned the nation upside-down, several teams at ICSC gathered in Tacloban to reflect on our purpose of continuous work within the region. Why Eastern Visayas? Why are we still here after ten years?

From discerning socio-economic and policy-related concerns, we identified several challenges and opportunities revolving around energy transition, climate science, and biodiversity. For instance, many areas still struggle with electricity, especially when typhoons hit the region. Members based in our Tacloban office also mentioned the pervasive misconceptions about RE, making it challenging to influence the local communities toward energy transition. These trials prove that we still have a long way to go. Yet, we recognize the chance to expand our energy work through hybridization, off-grid systems development, and translating policy into action.

We also discussed opportunities in the region’s biodiversity. Eastern Visayas is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, such as coastal floods and rising sea levels. Fortunately, it is rich in blue and green carbon ecosystems, which can be leveraged through conservation and restoration efforts. We aim to further expand the scope of ICSC’s work in science and biodiversity through slow onset events research and multi-actor partnerships. These are just a peek at our two-day regional planning. After identifying our Whys, we turned our possibilities into milestones and actionable steps for accountability in pursuing our climate action agenda.

MAP-ELCA: Multi-Actor Partnerships Towards Enhanced Local Climate Action

Aside from the Eastern Visayas agenda planning, we also held activities for two multi-actor partnership (MAP) projects last July. At ICSC, we put collaboration at the heart of our operations: MAP is one of our strategies to ensure inclusivity and evidence-based decision-making—engaging stakeholders from the government, the academe, and affected communities in co-creating holistic and sustainable climate solutions.

With our local partners from Guiuan and Salcedo inEastern Samar and Paranas in Samar, we gathered at the Summit Hotel in Tacloban City, Leyte for a ceremonial kick-off event of the Multi-Actor Partnership Towards Enhanced Local Climate Action (MAP-ELCA) on July 28, 2023. It is ICSC’s first initiative on biodiversity conservation under the INSPIRE Project, implemented by the Gerry Roxas Foundation and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In a nutshell, MAP-ELCA aims to advance natural resource resilience through stakeholder engagement in areas of leadership and advocacy, communications, nature-based solutions enterprises, research and development, and governance.

The Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) launched the Multi-Actor Partnership on Enhanced Local Climate Action (MAP-ELCA) project on July 28, 2023 in Tacloban City. MAP-ELCA is a project under Investing in Sustainability and Partnership for Inclusive Growth and Regenerative Ecosystems (INSPIRE), which is implemented by the Gerry Roxas Foundation (GRF) and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). (c) Jo Manalo/ICSC

Witnessing such a diverse group of actors from local governments, universities, civil society organizations, fisherfolk associations, and youth groups come together to protect our natural resources was an empowering experience. They acknowledged their distinctive roles in addressing biodiversity issues and even recognized the gaps in climate mitigation. And yet, these leaders filled the room with abundant enthusiasm and hope for the future of our environment.

MAP-CDRFI: Multi-Actor Partnerships on Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance

Mitigation and adaptation are critical methods that must work hand-in-hand to increase climate change resilience. On the day we celebrated the kick-off of MAP-ELCA, we also held a workshop for the Multi-Actor Partnership on Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance (MAP-CDRFI) initiative with our partners from the Visayas State University’s (VSU) Regional Climate Change Research and Development Center. The goal of MAP-CDFRI is to provide adaptive social protection for vulnerable communities impacted by natural hazards and climate change.

In collaboration with the VSU team, we mapped stakeholders that could potentially be key players in implementing CDRFI activities in the region. Since our research partners have more in-depth knowledge and direct exposure to their immediate communities, they can better assess the local organizations’ levels of interest and influence in the project. During the discussions, they also opened up about the possible obstacles we may encounter in selecting partners, and suggested creating structure and criteria to avoid equity issues. We agreed to conduct capacity and risk assessments for our target areas to mitigate any biases.

Cooperation is indeed the very essence of multi-actor partnerships. Working intentionally with different stakeholders creates a healthy feedback loop that is integral for any climate venture to succeed. By taking into account insights and complex interests from the grassroots level, we can refine strategies, maximize resources, and develop shared goals to address bigger climate problems. As we move forward with our Eastern Visayas agenda, we hope to continue engaging and empowering communities to become more climate-resilient in the years to come.

ICSC with support of Christian Aid provided assistance in vulnerable communities like Sulu-an and Victory islands. The team distributed 45 sacks of rice, around 200 solar lamps and also introduced the BRIGHT School Project in Sulua-an Integrated School. (c) AC Dimatatac/ICSC