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October-December 2013 Issue (Vol. 15 No. 4)

Patrick Raymund A. Lesaca

The year 2009 will be remembered as a time when we harvested the winds as large swathes of the country were devastated by several powerful typhoons. Amid the gathering storms, the government crafted outlines as response to these abrupt changes in weather in the form of the Climate Change (CC) Act of 2009 (RA 9729). In heeding the call of this law to formulate the strategy and the programs of action on climate change, the Department of Agriculture (DA) crafted its own CC advocacies and programs in the pursuit of a climate change-safe yet productive agricultural environment. Its bureaus and agencies followed suit with their own CC agendas premised on their respective thrusts and given mandates.

BAR’s Climate Change Program

Already mindful of what could place Philippine agriculture in peril, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), in October 2009, took initial steps and convened experts for a series of roundtable discussions and consultations on how BAR and the national agriculture and fisheries research and devleopment (R&D) system could contribute to the adaptation and mitigation strategies of the government. As a result, the Research, Development and Extension Agenda (RDE) for Climate Change Program was drafted. The Program was launched in the later part of 2010 as one of the major programs of BAR.

The Program covers specific action plans or components designed to give full attention to the realization of short-term adaptation strategies; long-term adaptation strategies; other adaptation strategies which are to be taken from the DA CC Program; and mitigation strategies. These components, which are confined within the precepts of R&D, address the ill effects of the changing weather phenomenon and shall serve as the blueprint for the effective implementation of climate change-related endeavors.

The bureau’s contribution and accomplishments can be categorized as support to the R&D efforts of the government and other stakeholders like state universities and colleges (SUCs), scientific and research communities, international institutions as well as private sector-led organizations. Since the inclusion and implementation of this major program, BAR has funded 22 climate change-related projects (11 short-term adaptation, 4 long-term adaptation, 6 short-term and long-term adaptations, and 1 mitigation).

Projects are classified as “short-term adaptation” strategy when significant outputs are generated in a span of one to three years, whereas projects needing more than three years to produce significant results are classified as “long-term adaptation”. One specific project with both short-term and long-term adaptation strategies, which is focused on the management of small-scale fisheries for sustainable resources and the assessment of risk and vulnerabilities of selected areas and the respective adaptation strategies of exposed communities, is the WorldFish project with BAR.

BAR and The WorldFish

Collaboration with international institutions is one of BAR’s organizational strategies in the development and delivery of R&D interventions and is particularly true in undertaking fishery projects. The partnership with the WorldFish Center has led to the successful completion of a BAR-funded and supported project titled, “Economic Analysis of Climate Change Adaptation Strategies in Selected Coastal Areas in the Philippines.”

Dr. Maripaz L. Perez, WorldFish Center Regional director for Asia and country manager in the Philippines, is also the main proponent of the project. Other collaborating agencies include: Bureau of Fisheries Aquatic Resources (BFAR) II, VIII, and X; Cagayan State University (CSU); Department of Science and Technology (DOST) II, VIII, and X; Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT); and Visayas State University (VSU).

The project generally aimed to study and assist selected coastal communities to gain better understanding of the risks associated with climate change and assess adaptation strategies and policy options to address these risks more efficiently. The specific objectives of the project are to: 1) validate and assess climate change impacts on selected coastal areas in the Philippines; 2) measure the economic costs and benefits due to specific effects of climate change in selected coastal areas in the three regions; 3) assess adaptation strategies to climate change in the selected coastal areas; 4) recommend viable adaptation options; and 5) explore and identify emerging issues in the assessment of vulnerability and economic analysis of adaptation based on the results of the regional case studies.

The project was implemented from March 2012 to February 2013 and covered three coastal areas in the Philippines namely: Babuyan Channel in Region II, Sogod Bay in Region VIII, and Macajalar and Iligan Bay in Region X.

The proponents, based on their completed report, articulated that coastal communities are among the most vulnerable sectors to CC. For one, these communities are among the poorest of the poor thus their condition constrains them to fully insure themselves against climate-induced hazards. Coastal areas have long felt the impacts of over-fishing and needless destruction of coastal ecosystems. However, the advent of climate-induced hazards has added a new dimension to these existing problems. At the local government level, for example, current state of funds, expertise, and technical capability are already limited. This restricts the LGUs’ ability to identify and prioritize effective adaptation strategies to climate change and implement public and planned adaptation measures that could otherwise protect and improve the resiliency of these coastal communities.

The methodologies applied presented rapid and systematic ways of gathering and analyzing information relevant for local level CC planning. According to the proponents, the project is a combination of participatory, community-based rapid assessment of hazard and vulnerability backed up by more technical and rigorous empirical economic analysis. The methodologies also further allowed an insightful analysis of vulnerabilities and hazards that these coastal communities face.

With BAR’s support, the information generated by the project, in the context of R&D adaptation and mitigation measures, led to the understanding that the threat of climate change is inevitable and therefore must be confronted and that measures be backed up with solid scientific findings, such as the WorldFish project which obtained relevant and specific information on the impacts of the phenomenon. The adaptation strategies identified and the estimates on the difference in CC impact with and without adaptation were also the direct benefits of the undertaking to planners and policymakers.

The data and figures gathered during project implementation can be used to support the study sites in understanding the risks posed by CC. This information would aid decisionmakers, at both the local and national levels, to integrate robust adaptation strategies into their development plans and budgets in a context of high uncertainty, competing needs and limited financial resources.

With the foregoing, BAR believes that this particular climate change-related project with WorldFish indicates the need for immediate response to the threat of climate change as determined by the project, not only by the government but by everybody in the clamor for food security and self-sufficiency.

The WorldFish Center, formerly known as the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM), was established in 1977. Since then, the Center has been working closely with a number of national research institutions and regional international organizations based in the country to resolve critical technical and socio-economic constraints in order to increase fish production, improve resource management and equitable distribution of benefits, and protect the environment. ###