LGUs urged to adopt crop diversification, other measures for climate change

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/04 October) – Local government units should explore crop diversification and an improved water resource management for them to quickly adapt to changing weather patterns, a member of the Climate Change Commission (CCC) said.

In a press forum held at the University of Immaculate Conception Saturday, CCC vice chair Lucille Sering said the move was one of many options that local government units can tap.

She said the commission and the Department of Interior and Local Government had issued a joint memorandum mandating LGUs to track and tag climate change related expenditures in the local budget.

Sering was referring to Joint Memorandum Circular 2014-01, dated August 7, 2014 which was also signed by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.

“We can prepare for drought,” Sering said, referring to predictions made by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration that an El Nino phenomenon or dry spell may hit the country starting late this year or early next year.

“Tuguegarao’s crop diversification helped them survive El Nino, and this shows that it can be done,” she noted.

She said it would depend on how LGUs would adapt to changing climate conditions. “My advice for LGUs? Take the warning seriously.”

The official said Mindanao’s hydropower facilities could also benefit from the predicted drought.

“Mindanao is largely hydropower-based,” Sering said. “When the water runs dry, it would be an opportunity to desilt the bodies of water, which have accumulated silt and have lowered the performance of the hydropower plants in Mindanao.”

He said coal-fired power plants also need to be addressed as an increasingly popular source of power.

“The problem is that the price of coal has lowered,” Sering said. “Coal plants eat up a lot of water during operation.”

She said it was time for policymakers to put a price on water, citing that water users or consumers actually pay for the price of distribution. “To cite an example, when you buy bottled water, you don’t really pay for the water but for the bottle itself.”

The CCC official meanwhile said the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board has required developers to include climate change measures such as disaster mapping and flood control in its upcoming projects.

Sering was joined by Mayor Alfredo Coro of Del Carmen, Surigao del Norte and climate change ambassador and television personality Bianca Gonzales in the climate change forum called Greeneration.

Attended by about 800 students from various universities and colleges in Mindanao, Greeneration Davao featured, among others, briefings on the role of science of climate change, best practices in climate change adaptation, the role of social media in disaster preparedness and response.

“The campaign envisions a unified movement of empowered Filipino youth for a climate change resilient Philippines. It also seeks to raise awareness among the youth on the fundamentals of climate change and promote government’s climate change-related initiatives particularly the national climate change action plan (NCCAP) and the people’s survival fund or the climate resiliency fund,” Sering said.

In a text message, city council environment committee chair Leonardo Avila III said the LGUs should take the memo seriously.

“It’s really reiterating a previous DILG memo for LGUs to have such a climate change action plan and to fund it,” Avila said.

The city government will begin this month marathon budget hearings as soon as the city council receives the budget document from the City Mayor’s Office.

In earlier interviews, city council finance committee chair Danilo Dayanghirang said an early submission of the budget document would ensure that the budget for 2015 would be finalized before the end of the year.

Sering said the commission has enjoyed a 26% increase in budget since 2010 and assured the media that her position had tenure.

She added the Australian Agency for International Development has also pledged to add $7 million to help the commission mainstream climate change into the plans of local government units. (MindaNews)