Adopt nature-based solutions to reduce flood risks – Legarda

December 18, 2020

MANILA, 17 December 2020 — Deputy Speaker and Antique Representative Loren Legarda today called on government agencies and LGUs to effectively implement environment, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and disaster risk reduction measures to ensure safer and more resilient communities to floods.

Legarda made the call during her message at the Flood Resilience Summit organized by the University of the Philippines Visayas and the Iloilo city and provincial governments. The said forum aims to bring leaders, experts, and decision-makers to discuss programs and policies that would reduce the risks of flooding in Iloilo.

“The increasing severity of typhoons and resulting floods—such as the succession of typhoons Pepito, Quinta, super typhoon Rolly, tropical storm Siony, Tonyo, and typhoon Ulysses—are stark reminder that extreme weather, high-impact events threaten to affect millions of our people, compounding challenges to health and security and economic stability with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Legarda emphasized.

As the author of landmark laws on climate adaptation and disaster resilience, including the Climate Change Act and the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, Legarda said that the national government and LGUs must focus on providing tools for locally-led adaptation.

“We must expand financial resources available to local governments, community-based organizations, and other local actors, to help create multi-stakeholder support with greater influence on evidence-based decision-making. It is at the local level where we can best identify, prioritize, implement, and monitor climate adaptation solutions,” said Legarda.

“Many of our LGUs have already started investing in flood control infrastructure, such as river embankments, pumping stations, floodwalls, drainage systems, storm drains, canals, and flood retention areas. However, this must be done in tandem with non-structural flood mitigation measures,” Legarda added.

Legarda noted that over the past decades, areas around waterways have become densely populated, affecting water flow. The social challenges that aggravate climate and disaster risks include urban congestion, where many people who live in informal settlements are particularly vulnerable to flooding. Despite warnings, communities continue to live in inadequate housing on or near waterways.

This was further compounded by the problem of solid waste management where uncollected trash, consisting mostly of single-use plastics, clog water flow and create problems in drainage. Poor land use planning has aggravated climate impacts.

“We must widely adopt nature-based solutions to reduce flood risks, such as restoring wetlands for water storage and soil moisture; reconnecting rivers to floodplains; planting mangroves to protect from coastal flooding; and increasing green urban spaces,” Legarda reiterated.

UP Visayas Chancellor Clement Camposano stressed that it is high time for the province to increase its level of preparedness to floods which bring massive destruction to their communities.

“We have flood incidents in the past, sinking our beloved province that is prone to vulnerabilities and always in constant danger. Yet for many years, many of us seem to carry on as if the danger is not real. I think it’s about time that we should be reminded that it’s no more a question of whether flooding leads to disaster or if will it happen again. We need to be ready if we are capable of reducing the danger and risks in life and property of the province.” said Camposano.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas emphasized the role of collaboration and solidarity in addressing the growing problem of flooding.

“Given our geographic location, we are very susceptible to flooding. This risk is made even worse by possible extreme weather events brought about by climate change. Both Iloilo City and the province are regularly affected by typhoons and heavy rains thus flooding is a problem that we really need to address together,” said Mayor Jerry Treñas of Iloilo City.

Iloilo Province Governor Arthur Defensor, Jr. shared insights on how commitment of stakeholders are vital for convergence of policy and programs.

“In 2010, we championed the Forest Resources Bill of Haribon Foundation. With 10 years’ worth of research, we fought for that bill on sustainable forest management. It was eventually approved,” said Governor Defensor.

Dr. Wei Sen Li, Executive Director of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Emergency Preparedness Capacity Building Center (APECEPCC) and Secretary-General of the Taiwan National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction (NDCR), enumerated in his presentation the vital elements to mitigate flooding in Iloilo.

“Knowledge, scenario, and risk and evaluation are the basic things we need in disaster risk reduction so we need to understand how to make science development and innovation in the decision-making process and applications. With UP Visayas, we work together to help Iloilo City. First is to have a scientific prediction. Then, install a lot of early warning sensors to keep real-time monitoring of the information that helps us revise our scientific prediction, and also to monitor the situation. If we can work these things together, I think we already have the elements to succeed in fighting against flood,” he said.

Towards the end of the program, a resolution implementing measures for flood risk reduction and resilience was signed by the local chief executives and heads of institutions and offices in Iloilo.

The said resolution provided recommendations for consideration of decision-makers, which includes:

  • Complete implementation of the Comprehensive Drainage Masterplan for Iloilo City that includes the full implementation of Stage 2 and Stage 3 of the Iloilo River Flood control project;
  • Strengthening and sustaining the operation and maintenance of flood mitigation activities, facilities, structures, waterways, and drainage systems;
  • Restoration and conservation of watersheds;
  • A comprehensive study on the river systems and their effects on flooding, including the mapping of the connectivity between river systems, the floodways, spillways, and drainage system, and the integration of local knowledge with science;
  • Institutionalization of Standard Operating Procedures in response to flooding occurrences;
  • Comprehensive training and capacitation of local personnel to address flooding issues and occurrences;
  • Strengthening community-based and managed flood prevention, preparedness, mitigation, and response;
  • Develop programs, projects, and activities (PPAs) that directly address and reduce social. cultural, economic, environmental, physical vulnerabilities and drivers of flood risks;
  • Mainstreaming DRR and CCA in all development plans, in line with the Rationalized Planning System JMC 2007-1 between the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), to include provisions that incorporate flood resilience in plans, programs, projects, and activities of the City and Province of Iloilo to reduce economic, sociocultural, environmental, physical, and institutional impacts of flooding on the lives and assets of llonggos; and
  • Institutionalization through legislation of co-beneficial infrastructure, social, economic, and environment development plans and programs with the private sector that will enhance flood resilience in the City and the Province of Iloilo.

“Nature-based solutions, which are sustainable and cost-effective, offer great potential to reduce risks from multiple hazards and to yield jobs, improve livelihoods, and protect biodiversity,” Legarda said. ###