By Chien Huan Li

To assume an entire country is composed of homogeneous individuals is a common mistake. Individuals and communities face different challenges because of the complex diversity of natural and social environments they have been born into or grown up in. This much was evident when we began our journey in Coron, Palawan in order to support local communities seeking to advance local development while alleviating the many and growing vulnerabilities inherent in their social and ecological setting.

Behind the Astonishing Beauty of Coron

On the plane to Coron, the breath-taking scenery was evident from the aircraft’s windows. Coron is an island composed of karst topography that shapes the islands and the underwater terrain. The beauty of the place provides considerable sightseeing opportunities. Surprises abound. At the same time, Coron’s natural endowment brings with it tension as it grapples with challenges imposed by large scale agriculture and the heavy reliance on fisheries.

Despite its wonders, it is easy to notice upon arrival that business was far from thriving because of inadequate infrastructure, notably transportation, and pervasive inequality. Coron has 23 barangays. Average household income vary wildly, from below Php10,000 to 270,000 per year. Behind the economic imbalance are intricate, intertwined problems, including but not limited to unequal access to natural resources, the rugged and fragmented terrain and uneven industrial development. In the midst of the increasingly serious and still worsening climate crisis, disparate development across the archipelago only heightens the exposure of residents to threats from climate change, partiularly slow onset climatic events.

The poorest Barangays in Coron, such as Banuang Daan, Cabugao and Malawig, rely on small-scale fishing and mangroves-related work. With climate change getting worse, fish catch is projected to decline rapidly. According to a UN Food and Agriculture Organization report, in the next 30 years fish catch may fall between 7% to 12% (RCP 8.5). Fisherfolk family income will decrease in time, including households that remain below the poverty line.

Lack of Data

How will such local communities adapt to climate change? The question is urgent. For sure, adaptation plans need to be customized to local conditions. A bottom-up approach that meaningfully engages stakeholders on the ground is fundamental and in line with the spirit of the Paris Agreement.

An effective adaptation plan can provide communities access to funds, but the requirement is effective communication among stakeholders and science-based data. There are over seven thousand islands in the Philippines, with island clusters facing unique challenges due to prevailing ecosystem differences. Aside from natural factors, social dimensions such as poverty, education, and gender should be considered as local communities develop comprehensive adaptation approaches. This means more data collection.

It is only in recent weeks that Coron was able to consolidate its own climate change data, thanks to the efforts of our partners from Cordaid and local governments.

How ICSC Engage in

So far, ICSC has established partnerships with local governments and NGOs and communities in Cebu and Palawan. Our first workshop in Coron last was Oct. 9. The next step for Coron is to engage its stakeholders as local climate change adaptation plans are developed.

In the workshop we introduced the Impact Chain Analysis Module to Coron local governments. It was our modest contribution to enabling local stakeholders understand and adapt better to climate change, especially slow onset events. When efforts are combined and when they seek to listen to and act together with a greater sense of purpose, they will establish a truly dynamic local ecosystem where the voice of local stakeholders can flourish.

Despite the strong demand for adaption to climate change in Coron and other places in Philippines, it has never been easy to kick start. After IPCC 1.5 Celsius Degree Special Report was published, the urgency seemed even clear than before. We are glad that so many stakeholders have been engaged to prepare Philippines for climate change impact in a slow, but determined and steady process.