The Philippines is vulnerable to climate change. Tropical cyclones visit the country, an average of 20 each year, destroying properties, livelihoods, infrastructure, and lives and costing its economy dearly.
Recurring disasters and calamities that a nation faces have made Filipinos resilient. However, continuous disasters and calamities can set back the economic progress the country has made.
For the Philippines to continue its growth, it has to find ways to tackle the problem efficiently.
Disasters such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, typhoons, storm surges, tsunamis, sea-level rise, floods, landslides, and droughts cost the economy $1.7 billion per year and result in 1,600 deaths per year (Climate Resilience in the Philippines, 2016).
The report mentions:
“In addition, unsustainable development practices along with rapid urbanization will contribute to environmental deterioration and likely exacerbate climate and disaster risks and vulnerability in the Philippines.”
To respond to the country’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change, the government seeks to address the gaps and improve its response to climate change, the paper states.
Despite the traction of climate change adaptation globally, the country struggles to understand what is being achieved and the impact is because climate change is still “an emerging field, and rife with uncertainties about how best to navigate the many methodological challenges” (Climate Resilience in the Philippines, 2016).
The Philippines’ policy context explained
Climate Resilience in the Philippines briefing paper explains the policy context of the Philippines, particularly on the risk resiliency and sustainability program (RRSP). We have listed some salient points:
- Before the country established its climate change adaptation strategies, it already had the disaster risk reduction (DRR) program. Although separate in structure, there is significant overlap.
- The concept of disaster risk reduction has been integrated fully into the country’s disaster risk management systems to reduce the impact on infrastructures, property, and lives.
- The DRM networks are also decentralized to local government units so each local government can plan and implement programs on disaster risk reduction, preparedness, and response.
- The climate change act of 2009 set the stage for creating climate change policies and created the Climate Change Commission responsible for mainstreaming climate change into its policy and development across various sectors. Climate change adaptation has also been integrated to strengthen the countries’ DRR strategies.
The economic growth of the Philippines
The Philippines has enjoyed steady economic growth, having a 7 per cent GDP growth for five consecutive quarters in 2016 when the Climate Resilience in the Philippines report was written.
However, poverty remains high, and there is slow growth in employment. The Philippines have recognized that to sustain its growth and be climate-resilient, it has to include its most vulnerable and poor population (Climate Resilience in the Philippines, 2016).
Understanding climate adaptation and resilience in the Philippines
The report distinguishes between adaptation and resilience to clearly understand and separate the two concepts.
While adaptation is “actor-centric” and focused on ensuring that the system can absorb changes, resilience is more “macro,’ it says. The report explains further:
- Adaptation is context, site, and impact-specific, and climate adaptation funding reflects this.
- Usually, adaptation is project-based and ends up having a proliferation of projects and often one-offs and lacks a coherent overall strategy.
- Moreover, climate adaptations may only be ‘add-ons’ when funding is available and not really mainstreaming in the overall thrust for climate resiliency.
Climate resiliency, on the other hand, looks and emphasizes the ‘big picture” and a useful framework for assessing climate change actions at a national level, the report says.
To build resilience, it is critical to focus on systems that provide core services like water, food, power, communication, and agents: people, government, and institutions (law, culture).
- It is hard to define resilience or adaptation success because it depends on the context and stakeholders’ differing views and priorities.
- Lack of universal indicators, there is no common measure and benchmark for resilience, and universal indicators are broad. While systems to integrate these indicators are complex and have multiple and interrelated dimensions.
- Establishing a causal relationship between an intervention and outcome for climate resilience is difficult because resilience is a complex and long-term process. And hard to prove that an intervention has resulted in resilience.
- Identifying baselines, targets and impacts is difficult because the context is ever-changing, which makes it difficult to measure adaptation and resilience. Because climate change is triggering a deterioration, a post-intervention assessment may not show the effectiveness of a program and even result in ‘misattribution of failure’ and ‘holding steady’ can even be counted as an achievement.
- Because climate change is unfolding in a long-term process, the success of the short-term and localized intervention is difficult to assess. And long-term intervention takes time for its effects to be felt, so monitoring and evaluation need adjustments to accommodate long-term intervention.
Challenges to monitoring and evaluation of climate resilience
“Adaptation and resilience pose a thorny bundle of M & E challenges for which there are no easy answers.”
In addition to the challenges of responding to climate risks, there is the problem of monitoring resilience. When it comes to resilience, it has to answer the question ‘of what to what’ because resilience can be developed in communities but fails at an individual level (Climate Resilience in the Philippines, 2016).
Although the Philippines has an existing Monitoring and Evaluation framework for climate change adaptation, the report says that the M & E for climate resilience is not clearly conceptualised.
The report concludes that the indicator-driven monitoring and evaluation approach of climate change resilience and adaptation is ‘simply not going to work’.
It further says that because there are no standard benchmarks to be collected, rather a “range of possibilities as diverse as the problems and interventions at hand,” instead it should focus on what to “achieve on a systems level, and assess progress towards these aims”.
Developing a monitoring and evaluation framework for climate change resilience
Not only does the government need to develop a monitoring and evaluation framework for climate resilience in the Philipines, but it has to link it to the country’s development plan (Philippine Development Plan) and climate action plan (National Climate Change Action Plan).
To achieve this, the Climate Change Resilience report recommends the following:
- Define resilience, preferably the most suitable and operational one, for people to be on the same page and to avoid confusion.
- Articulate a Theory of Change (ToC) that articulates climate resilience. The ToC should include Poverty reduction; Ecosystem protection; access to quality healthcare; effective disaster prevention, preparedness, and management; household-level food security; and mainstreaming climate change into policy and programs.
- Lastly, it has to define climate resilience indicators such as impact, outcome, and process indicators, the report narrates.
Some insights on and for the Philippines’ climate change resilience program
The Philippines is not bereft of talented and smart engineers, city planners, environmental scientists, educators, and policy-makers. Based on the cited report, the Philippines clearly understands what it needs to do in the future.
The wealth of data from reports showing the country’s geographic risks and climate hazards and its ongoing climate adaptation programs and policies on climate change show that the country has the capacity and resources to be resilient to climate change. What it lacks is the will of the politicians to implement it and implement it right.
It also needs to start with the most vulnerable and the poorest of its communities, like those living in slum areas, along the coasts and small islands, and citizens highly dependent on agriculture and farming.
Making this information and hazard maps accessible to citizens and providing needed assistance on what to do before, during, and after disasters is a way to start.
Encouraging managed retreats for those living in highly hazardous and at-risk areas can be less expensive and chaotic than having a mass evacuation during a calamity.
Implementing and educating urban residents on the benefits of green infrastructures can mitigate extreme heating events.
Refraining from building along the rivers or catchment areas while allowing space for rivers to overflow during heavy rainfalls can save on infrastructures and property damage it will otherwise incur during flooding events.
Having efficient and sanitary waste disposals and discouraging littering can prevent the spread of diseases and epidemics, planting trees, spreading development into other regions to reduce population into urban areas, transitioning to the use of renewable energy, and the list can go on.
Resilience strategies can sometimes be no more than ramping up its already ongoing adaptation and resilience programs – it is just doing more and investing more to save costs and lives and for sustainable economic growth.
Typhoon Haiyan satellite image by NASA, LAADS Web, HDF File processed by Supportstorm – https://ladsweb.nascom.nasa.gov/browse_images/mid.html…, Public Domain, Link