MANILA, 8 November 2019 – Six years after Haiyan (Yolanda) made landfall in the Philippines, survivors of the super typhoon are standing together to survive and thrive in the face of climate change.
The local governments of Coron, Palawan; the three towns of Bantayan Island, Cebu; and Guiuan, Eastern Samar have collaborated on a joint proposal worth over USD 10 million for the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund (GCF). The Climate Change Commission submitted this week to the GCF Board the first phase of the proposal, which aims to address water security issues aggravated by climate change impacts.
“In stark contrast to the Trump Administration’s climate cowardice, survivors at the frontline of climate change impacts are standing on the forefront of solutions to the crisis,” said Denise Fontanilla, associate for policy advocacy of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, an international climate and energy policy group based in the Philippines. “It’s high time for developed countries to distinguish themselves from the hooligan government of the US. They need to step up because the time for rhetoric has long expired,” Fontanilla said.
Twenty-seven countries pledged to replenish the Green Climate Fund by USD 9.77 billion last month in Paris, although experts agree the amount is nowhere near enough to address the adaptation needs of developing countries across the world.
“There is much to learn from these five towns, although they still need urgent financial and technical support from the international community. Their sense of responsibility deserves the public’s applause as much as recent efforts by Xi Jinping, Emmanuel Macron, and Jacinda Ardern to assure the world of the Paris Agreement’s momentum,” Fontanilla added.
The water problems of the five GCF proponent towns, though different in form, are all linked to changes in rainfall patterns and intensity, and prolonged dry seasons:
- Guiuan, Eastern Samar is grappling with a low supply of freshwater, especially during the 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.
- Coron, Palawan struggles with water quality from their upstream watersheds, often caused by contamination from landslides from typhoons.
- Bantayan Island, Cebu faces reduced quality and low access to freshwater, compounded by evident observations of sea level rise and other factors. The three municipalities of Santa Fe, Bantayan, and Madridejos are working together to develop an island-wide water strategy around their shared watershed and ecosystem.
“Guiuan has always aimed to become resilient not only to super typhoons but also sea level rise, extreme rains, and drought. But our journey would be harder than it already is if governments cannot mobilize climate financing,” said Rectito Melquiades, secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan of Guiuan, Eastern Samar and coordinator of the multisectoral Guiuan Recovery and Sustainable Development Group for Resilience. He joined representatives of Coron, Iloilo, and other Haiyan-affected towns last Tuesday at a solidarity event hosted by ICSC in its Tacloban facility.
“Our story is not a story of tragedy, our story is not a story of calamity, our story is about resilience,” Tacloban Vice Mayor Jerry Sambo Yaokasin said at the gathering. “It’s beyond recovery; it’s about development and progress.”
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