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Community Participation in Adaptation Planning

By Danica Marie Supnet

I cannot hide my agitation to speak during class discussions, especially when I know the topic very well. Our professor started the class using participatory development theories and contesting the relevance of participation in the context of the new normal (climate change). The light bulb in my head turned on really quick! These concepts are really personal to me. A lot of it is woven into my work with iCSC. But now I’m off campus, and raring to test and apply the concepts to field work in Surigao del Sur.

We are part of a consultative meeting with the municipal government council, planning officers, and barangay representatives in the town of Lanuza, Surigao del Sur. Lanuza is a fourth class municipality situated at the north eastern part of Surigao del Sur. The meeting aims to help develop the municipality’s adaptation programs and to identify different approaches to access climate finance.

A veteran of local climate resilience discussions, Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer (MENRO) Ranulfo Arreza (Sir Anul) started the event by setting the agenda of the consultation. Barangay officials shared insights and recommendations that may prove useful to the municipal council, which is tasked with helping shape and approve the town’s adaptation plans. The participation level was energizing. People asked questions, offered comments and suggestions. Not even power interruptions prevented participants from exchanging views.

Technical and practical approaches are critical to the development of feasible adaptation plans. From our conversations with Lanuza Mayor Salvacion Azarcon, Sir Anul and Mr Melchor John Largo from the Municipal Planning Development Council (MPDC), it was clear the town intended to adopt a macro-scale adaptation plan, such as the “ridge-to-reef” system, that covers very specific issues of upstream to downstream barangays. The municipality has existing documents such as participatory community and vulnerability assessment (PCVA) from each barangay and feasibility studies that will support the plan.

An interesting part of the plan is the inclusion of street lights powered by solar arrays and a hybrid PV solar system in the Surf Camp. The emphasis on using renewable energy is noted as a possible solution to the prevalent power interruption they are experiencing. The province of Surigao, in general, is affected by the massive power crisis in Mindanao.

Power management in the municipality include rotational brownouts and scheduled lighting of streetlights. For instance, we observed that streets lights along the sea side boulevard are not used during weekdays. According to locals, streetlights are only switched on during Fridays and weekends from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM . On the other hand, the surf camp serves as a center for tourists, a multipurpose hall for community meetings, and also as the command post during disasters. With solar power, the benefit of savings from dramatically reduced electricity bills while providing emergency power during disaster becomes possible. It seems clear the municipal council want to make this happen and they have great support from the local population.

Developing an adaptation program is not simply about building evacuation centers. An adaptation plan requires holistic planning, and it targets specific components, and must be proactive rather than reactive. An adaptation plan might aspire, for instance, to increase resiliency through a change of planting cycles and introduction of new, more efficient and reliable irrigation technologies powered by renewable energy.

Lanuza indeed stood out for in terms of the importance it continues to place in participatory planning and harnessing efficient, practical approaches to adaptation planning. It is the municipality’s collective initiative and their contribution to global action to increase resiliency to climate change in the long run. As Sir Anul said, amidst the calamity, we stand strong!

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