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Climate change cheers

By: Red Constantino

Butuan City, July 31 — It’s been a while since I was last here. The People’s Survival Fund was still a bill then. In 2011, the struggle to pin down more predictable, accessible, scalable sources of adaptation finance in the country was still in its infancy.

Two years ago, after the talk I had given to a huge number of Mindanao-based local government officials, civil society, and Oxfam, updating them on the elements of the bill and what they might to to support the measure, I remember finding time to visit a few moonshine distilleries outside the city. Near the massive Agusan river, along one of its tributaries, I found a few palm stills making tuba and bahalina. I think I spent the entire afternoon sampling the hooch – some fragrant and sweet and smoky; others rivaling the quality of aviation grade fuel. I stayed far into the night and talked with rural folks overseeing the still, until at last I was ready to stagger back downtown aboard a bouncing, rickety motorized pedicab.

This time around, though, it’s a different matter. Not only is the PSF established already as law. It now has an actual P1 billion peso allocation in the programmed funds section of the National Expenditure Program submitted by the executive branch for approval by the legislature.

So my update was a bit upbeat. I added a few great things as well – insights and opportunities from our RE-Charge Facility in Tacloban City from where our program to enhance the development and response capacity of humanitarian and advocacy officers using renewable energy emanates. The response was elating -more than a few, including CSO colleagues, expressed keen interest to take the program more steps further.

As usual, there were also a lot of take home gifts, the most special of which was the update from Oxfam’s Dante Dalabajan, who walked me through the moving very recent experience of farming households in the town of Jabonga with climate change-related insurance. A year ago, together with contributions in terms of time or resources from PAGASA, MicroEnsure, and Agri-Aqua Development Coalition (AADC), Oxfam helped put together an automated weather station or AWS and helped provide agri-insurance coverage to a large number of households in the town.

Jabonga contributed significantly, not just in terms of effort but in financing as well. The town used a portion of the five percent it raised from town revenue from regular sources for the local disaster risk reduction and management fund as provided by Republic Act 10121, which promotes spending, according to section 21 of the law, for “pre-disaster preparedeness programs including … the payment of premiums on calamity insurance.”1-2014-08-01 00.07.42

The benefit of the project swiftly became apparent. Typhoon Agaton arrived early in 2014 (just two months after the strongest storm to make landfall, Typhoon Yolanda, hit Philippine shores and affecting large parts of Mindanao). Agaton made landfall in January 11 and wrought havoc on many towns till the end of the month, including the municipality of Jabonga. But thanks to the early concerted action of local officials, local groups, Oxfam and PAGASA, after data was collated from the town’s automated weather station, claims were successfully made and a cheque amounting to P2.165 million was eventually issued by MicroEnsure to the local non-government group AADC, which distributed the funds to households enrolled in the insurance program.

Quite recently, iCSC co-wrote a report with Oxfam and the Climate Change Commission showing how central the private sector is, particularly the insurance industry, to formulating broad, effective, lasting and comprehensive national and local climate change response agendas for the Philippines. The Jabonga experience is certainly among the better examples of outcomes that the report anticipated. May there be more.

Cheers indeed.

Download the People’s Survival Fund law Download the Weather Index-based Insurance Report
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