By Danica Marie Supnet

The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change continue to challenge the capacities of developing countries such as ours. The Philippines is among the most vulnerable to long-term climate risks and our healthcare system has been heavily strained by the pandemic. This shows us that “global shocks” do not wait in line. They may happen at the same time which makes the impacts of each, including its economic implications, far worse.

The Climate Change Commission noted that “the Philippines needs USD 12 to 15 billion of climate finance to meet our Nationally Determined Contributions by 2030”. Multilateral development banks (MDBs) are reported to respond with a USD 878 million climate finance commitment to Philippines in 2020. But based on the same report, most of the financing was diverted to the country’s COVID-19 response. This should be augmented by national and local financing and investments to minimize the impact of both shocks to the Philippines’ economy.

Lawmakers cited red flags from the 2022 budget’s lack of needed pandemic response funds in the national budget deliberations. These budget cuts could have been vital to the pandemic and climate crisis response of local government units (LGUs). In the third quarter of 2021, LGUs are starting to develop their 2022 plan and budget alongside with the development of their devolution transition plan (DTP). This begs us to ask: how can the increased share in the national income pie be leveraged by the LGUs as an opportunity to address two development crises we are all facing?

The Mandanas-Garcia ruling that was issued by the Philippine Supreme Court in 2018 mandates the national government starting fiscal year 2022 to implement a “just share” not only on internal revenue allotments but over national revenues consistent with the provisions of the 1987 Constitution to support local development programs, activities, and projects (PAPs) in key sectors. This coincides with specific climate change adaptation (CCA) initiatives that LGUs identify in their development plans.

The ruling is a silver lining for LGUs to finally receive additional budget to implement development and investment programs. It is an opportunity to “climate-proof” their development with adaptation initiatives. However, this must be supported by technical understanding to allow communities to effectively adapt to climate impacts. Often, LGUs are overwhelmed by multiple technical requirements in planning processes. The early years of the People’s Survival Fund’s implementation is a testament to this. Proposals were reverted back to the local government proponents due to absence of a sound climate rationale.

How can we achieve sound climate rationale and effective local development planning in light of accessing available funding? First, recognize the importance of science and evidence-based approach in mainstreaming gender in climate planning. Integrating gendered-differentiated climate impact assessments with gender and health responsive strategies can and should make for climate-resilient development planning. Mainstreaming gender should go beyond the representation to justify a gender-responsive plan. We are yet to see a Gender and Development (GAD) plan that contextualizes climate impacts as a gender issue that increases the vulnerability of women, men, youth, and the elderly; shows disparity in their adaptive capacities; access to health services; and economic and socio-cultural status.

Second, the application of climate-tagging policy for the LGUs’ annual investment plan (AIP). The national government’s Climate Change Expenditure Tagging (CCET) aims to “climate-proof” the local government budget. LGUs are tasked to identify climate change-responsiveness of their identified PAPs submitted in their AIP. The climate tagging process strengthens an integrative approach of verifying whether climate strategies are also gender responsive, rather than merely relying on concepts and checklists.

Third, access to available climate finance. The GAD plan is one of the sectoral plans with a dedicated annual five percent (5%) allocation but it cannot support all gender-responsive climate adaptation PAPs on its own. Climate finance sources accessed by LGUs are still limited despite promises of climate development plans and support from the private sector and the national government. Fund blending approaches of having additional funding and existing fund sources can be adopted by LGUs in their budgeting process.

The LGUs are the frontliners in responding to these global shocks. Even though the recent Mandanas-Garcia ruling would mean greater resources, funds may still be inadequate to address the development needs and interrelated health and climate impacts to communities. Steering local development while addressing these global shocks invite greater opportunity for resource optimization and making more simple and efficient approaches that remain responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable groups with the common goal of thriving as a country.

Danica Marie Supnet is the lead analyst for climate governance of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) and a fellow of the Asian consortium Women and Earth Initiative (WORTH) of the Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW).