The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is pushing for stronger grassroots involvement in the fight against climate change to help vulnerable communities effectively adapt to and reduce potential climate risks.
Along with the civil society group Climate Change Congress of the Philippines (CCCP), the DENR recently hosted a two-day conference that brought together various people's organizations (POs) within the Marikina watershed to tackle issues related to climate change preparedness and resilience.
The “Conference on Building Climate Resilient Communities through Integrated River Basin Management for Marikina Watershed: The Stakeholders as Partners in Sustainable Development” was held last week at the First Pacific Leadership Academy in Antipolo City.
DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje said the conference was part of ongoing efforts to develop solutions for building more resilient communities in the face of climate change.
He underscored the need to regularly involve grassroots stakeholders in the rehabilitation and protection of Marikina watershed, which degradation contributed to the "Ondoy" floods that left nearly 500 people dead and destroyed properties worth P11 billion in 2009.
The watershed is part of the 26,125-hectare Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape, which spans 14 cities and municipalities in Metro Manila and the Calabarzon. Its drainage basin extends from the Sierra Madre Mountain of Rizal province to the Napindan Channel and the Pasig River, which itself empties into the Manila Bay.
Paje described the Marikina watershed as a "fragile ecosystem hurting from environmentally irresponsible activities."
“Our forests and watersheds are like war zones where we fight battles for survival," Paje pointed out. "But in this war, we are fighting those who sacrifice our common future for their individual short-term benefits. Their acts invite calamities."
He added: "Making communities climate-resilient demands mass participation on a continuing basis. The challenge goes beyond disaster preparedness and extends to disaster prevention through actions to mitigate climate change."
The environment chief said the active participation of concerned communities is crucial in coming up with formidable and comprehensive strategies to combat climate change.
For its part, Paje said the DENR has come up with a number of initiatives to help mitigate the impacts of climate change, including the National Greening Program where almost 10,000 hectares of forest land in the upper Marikina watershed had already been replanted with endemic and economically viable trees. The DENR also targets to cover an additional 5,700 hectares in the area with trees by the end of the year.
He said the DENR has likewise completed the geohazard maps of landslide and flood-prone areas within the municipalities of San Mateo and Rodriguez in Rizal at a scale of 1:10,000, while those for Antipolo City will be out very soon.
Among the topics discussed in the conference include ecosystems management and agriculture, which are closely linked to poverty and food security and are threatened by climate change impact.
The resource persons came from line agencies under the National Convergence Initiative -- the DENR and the Departments of Agriculture, Agrarian Reform, and the Interior and Local Government -- as well as the Department of Public Works and Highways, the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples, and the Regional Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council.
The speakers discussed the situations and challenges within the Marikina watershed; climate change impacts on the area; and experiences on ancestral domain management and community organizing.
They also presented the challenges on the issues of solid waste management, land conflicts, land use and conversion, livelihood and entrepreneurship, food security, illegal mining and quarrying, pollution, illegal logging, and agricultural opportunities.
Various workshops were also held for representatives of POs to give them a chance to identify the specific forest, agricultural and urban concerns in both upstream and downstream areas of the Marikina River.
Issues raised were summarized and directly addressed by the corresponding government agencies in a separate plenary session.
The workshop outputs are expected to unify complementary programs for the environment, local government units, and land and resource management units as contribution to the ongoing development of the master plan for the Marikina River Basin.
The conference is the third in a four-part series conducted in selected critical protected areas in the country. The two previous forums covered the Cagayan de Oro River Basin and the Bago Watershed in Negros Occidental, held in April and July, respectively. The fourth meeting will be a national conference consolidating all outputs from the three regional conferences, to be held later this year. #