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Fund sought to pursue climate-change adaptation measures

By Michael Lim Ubac

Philippine Daily Inquirer

January 7, 2011, MANILA, Philippines—In the wake of floods and landslides in various parts of Mindanao, Visayas and the Bicol region, Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III sought the early passage of House Bill No. 3528, otherwise known as the “People’s Survival Fund (PSF),” on Friday.

The proposed measure will help local government units (LGUs) adapt to climate change.

The bill seeks to establish a long-term, predictable fund dedicated

to adaptation programs of local governments and communities.

It aims to put up a “rewards” fund, which gives incentives to LGUs actively instituting local adaptation programs.

Tañada said he preferred to call HB 3528 as the “Depensa (defense) Bill.”

In a statement, he pointed out that Nathaniel Servando, deputy administrator of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, had attributed the abnormal weather pattern—which has caused flash floods in a large swath of Mindanao and Bicol, and caused landslides in Leyte—to climate change.

“Communities must be properly equipped and prepared to help themselves in order to respond to the disasters brought about by this phenomenon. It must also put forward a climate change adaptation strategy, which must be properly funded,” he said.

Heavy rains experienced in the Bicol region and the Samar-Leyte area have forced thousands of people to leave their houses in mountainous and

low-lying areas for fear of flash floods and landslides.

In the provinces of Southern Leyte and Eastern Samar, flooding spawned by non-stop rains displaced at least 4,253 families or 20,706 people from eight towns.

The bill actually amends Republic Act No. 9729, otherwise known as the Climate Change Act of 2009, which created the Climate Change Commission (CCC).

The CCC is tasked to lead the country’s response to the increasing severity and frequency of impacts due to warming temperatures worldwide.

“But the law, as written, is not enough. The Depensa Bill gives the CCC not just a project implementor role but a body exercising coordinative, capacity-building [and] consultative leadership,” Tañada said.

“I envision the PSF to become a central source of funding support for urgent adaptation activities needed by farming localities,” he said.

For example, he cited those areas requiring the deployment of small water impounding projects in anticipation of extreme drought, structures that can dramatically reduce the effects of intense flooding, and the farmers’ ability to shift to crops which are more resilient to severe or prolonged high temperatures.

“Coastal communities whose fishing livelihoods may be displaced by rising sea levels can also access and benefit from the establishment of such a fund should they choose to formulate early and proactive adaptation plans, Tañada said.

The funds would come from private and public sources, as well as foreign aid, said the lawmaker.

The bill is pending with the Committee on Ecology chaired by Rep. Danilo Ramon S. Fernandez since October 2010.

A similar measure, Senate Bill No. 2558, authored by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, is being tackled in the upper chamber.

Photo of the flooding in Silay City, Negros Occidental by Michelle Yulo