The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) reaffirmed its support for building resilience to climate disasters in local government units (LGUs) by launching DENR Services on Wheels and Project TRANSFORM in Odette-hit municipalities  of Del Carmen, Burgos, Malimono and San Francisco in Siargao island.

“The DENR is here to support all LGUs and all partners on their journey towards resilience. This support will cover ridge-to-reef and we will work with you in managing forests, coastal and marine habitats, land use, solid waste, and water,” DENR Secretary Antonia Loyzaga said during an event in Surigao del Norte province on Friday, June 23.

Loyzaga was in Siargao island to spearhead the implementation of Project TRANSFORM, or the Transdisciplinary Approach for Resilience and Environmental Sustainability through Multistakeholder Engagement, and to deliver DENR services such as the processing Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECCs) closer to the people through DENR Services on Wheels.

Project TRANSFORM is the integrated resilience and sustainability program of the DENR that engages the whole of society in implementing programs to alleviate poverty, enhance community resilience, and promote public-private partnerships.

The Environment Secretary pointed out that since every LGU has different capacities, strengths and vulnerabilities, each one needs to constantly balance hazards and exposure through evidence-informed decisions, policies, actions and programs.

As a protected area, Siargao island suffered the brunt of typhoon Odette in December 2021. As one of the country’s five gems, Loyzaga said that Surigao del Norte has unique and wonderful opportunities for inclusive and resilience development, but also unique risks due to man-made, geologic, and climate-related hazards.

She said that all sectors of society – government, academe, private sector and civil society – must work together to “identify high priority areas, understand the root causes of vulnerability, and identify and invest in appropriate environmental protection, climate change adaptation and mitigation and DRR (disaster risk reduction) strategies.”

The DENR Secretary also highlighted the critical role LGUs play in achieving climate and disaster resilience. Present at the launch were Siargao Islands 1st District Congressman Francisco Matugas, II, Malimono Mayor Wallace Sinaca, San Francisco Mayor Val Pinat, Burgos Mayor Angie Arcena, Del Carmen Mayor Alfredo Coro, II, Dapa Mayor Elizabeth Matugas, General Luna Mayor Sol Matugas, Pilar Mayor Maria Liza Resurreccion, San Benito Mayor Gina Sumando-Menila, San Isidro Mayor Lamberto Dominos, Jr., Sta. Monica Mayor Arwela Dolar, Socorro Mayor Reizl Timcang, and Surigao del Norte Assistant Provincial Administrator Molly Sering.

Also present in the event were development partners National Resilience Council (NRC), Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF), Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF), Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), Philippine Forest Foundation (PFF), Jaime V. Ongpin Foundation, Inc., United States Agency for International Development (USAID) SIBOL, and Rare Philippines.

“Local leadership is critical in making the resilience agenda work on the ground. We must work together to ensure the implementation of informed and inclusive programs so that we can truly make a lasting impact on our community,” Loyzaga said.

“Key to this is that local chief executives need to own both risk and opportunities that are present in each of their local governments. Having owned both, then we’ll be able to chart the ways forward for their municipalities and for the province,” she added.

Loyzaga described Project TRANSFORM as “one practical application of the continuous consultation the DENR has had with all stakeholders and the foundational work done by key partners including the NRC which was established by Ambassador Roberto R. Romulo of the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation, SM Prime’s Hans Sy, and inspired by Prof. Ernesto Garilao of the ZFF.

Loyzaga expressed her thanks to the NRC, PBSP, PEF, Energy Development Corporation, USAID, PFF, and ZFF for their generous support for Project TRANSFORM.

“Economic activities which depend heavily on natural resources ad activities that impact the health of ecosystems and the services they provide have resulted in high exposure for the province,” Loyzaga ponted out.

Loyzaga said the DENR is looking forward to working with the provincial government and other partners in crafting the proposed Siargao Development Masterplan and in facilitating investments in nature-based and gray-green solutions through multistakeholder partnerships. ##