By Marisol Tuso
May 31, 2022
In May, Climate Reality Leaders in Mindanao were thrilled to have an intimate and meaningful conversation with Mayor-elect Alfredo Coro II of Del Carmen, Surigao del Norte. During the hangout, he shared how his municipality is able to survive and thrive amid the onslaught of strong typhoons, such as the recent super typhoon Odette.
Mayor Coro has been an advocate for climate mitigation and adaptation since 2011. His transformational leadership during his first three terms as municipal mayor (2010-2019) led him to share the climate story of Del Carmen to the world and serve as a voice for farmers and fisherfolk in international conferences, including the United Nations Assembly held in New York in 2010.
Del Carmen is one of the most recognized local government units (LGUs) in terms of environmental and climate action. The municipality’s project on Siargao Climate Field School for Farmers and Fisherfolk is a recipient of the People’s Survival Fund. The municipal government was recently awarded by the Department of Agriculture during the Buwan ng Magsasaka at Mangingisda for its sustainable management of mangrove forests.
Del Carmen holds the largest contiguous mangrove forest in the Philippines. With programs in place in the grassroots communities, the local government was able to cut poverty incidence by almost 50% in a span of eight (8) years.
The municipality has also notably mobilized the youth to contribute to municipal-wide climate actions. Through the Junior Environmental Scouts, the local government has allocated funds for student-led environmental programs.
Now that Mayor Coro is back at the helm as Del Carmen’s chief executive, Climate Reality Leaders in Mindanao are looking forward to more transformative actions that will address the wide array of climate issues in the locality.
In this month’s regional hangout, Climate Reality Leaders in Mindanao also welcomed Climate Reality Leader Antonio “Toni” Regis, Jr. who just arrived from India.
Toni is a Junior Research Fellow at the Department of Climate Change of the Institute of Technology in Hyderabad, India. He is now in the Philippines for his dissertation’s preliminary fieldwork, particularly in Siargao, Surigao del Norte.
Toni is a marine biologist and has been passionate in his advocacy for the management, preservation, and protection of fisheries and coastal resources in the country. He was the Coastal Resource Management Officer of the Fisheries, Coastal Resources and Livelihood (FishCORAL) Project of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which was implemented by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in the Caraga Region.
He was also recently selected to participate in the upcoming Stockholm +50 and Youth Assembly in Stockholm, Sweden this June. He will be representing the Department of Climate Change of their university and the Philippine Youth. At present, he has been joining national consultations when it comes to environmental conservation and climate change in the Philippines to come up with a policy paper for youth action and leadership as part of the youth engagement sector of the assembly.
Fortunately, I had the time to meet Toni in person during the recent awarding of Father Saturnino Urios University (FSUU) as one of the 2021 Mobility Awards’ Bronze Awardees for Most Bike-Friendly Workplaces in Mindanao.
Moving forward, realizing the impacts of climate change on marine life and its habitat and on the communities that rely on it, Toni shared that his inclination is now focused on translating complex climate science concepts into communication materials that communities in the Philippines can better understand.
Like Toni, Climate Reality Leader Rogelio Diaz is also working on marine conservation in Dapa, Surigao del Norte, as he shared during this month’s regional hangout.
A Conservation Fellow since 2018, Roger was the Project Manager of Fish Forever on the Corregidor Island in Siargao. He worked on awareness building, consultation, and engaging the community in the protection of the island. He was able to help improve fish biomass inside the sanctuary while convincing fishers to change their way of fishing in the managed areas.
Roger also worked on promoting disaster preparedness among the fishing communities. Through the Disaster Resiliency Fund, he helped set up community banking systems to generate savings.
Currently, Roger is the Managing Director of Aspire of Advocates for Social Protection, Innovation and Resilient Ecology (ASPIRE), Inc. He is now focused on saving the parrot fish, the species responsible for preserving the ocean’s rapidly depleting coral reefs.
Because of the absence of a national law banning the trade of parrot fish, Roger’s group has expressed concerns about the impact of illegal catching and trading of the species on the ability of the marine ecosystem to regenerate.
Another Climate Reality Leader in the spotlight during this month’s regional hangout is Camille Cutimar of Magallanes, Agusan del Norte.
The 23-year-old fisheries graduate is now involved in the assessment of fish stocks as an enumerator of the National Stock Assessment Program (NSAP) of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Region 10. She is also currently taking up a Master’s Degree in Aquaculture at the Mindanao State University- Naawan Campus.
Mindanao Climate Reality Leaders were also pleased to touch base with fellow Climate Reality Leader Kenny Lloyd Angon during the hangout.
Trained as a Climate Reality Leader in 2016, Kenny is working with the Ateneo de Davao University as the Deputy Director of the Peace Building Institute called Al Qalam and has led the implementation of various projects funded by international organizations and embassies.
One of these projects was Project Ligwasan, which was implemented from 2020 to 2021 with the Netherland Embassy, to promote civic participation in developing policies and programs for the sustainability and protection of the marshland as an important resource.
Ligwasan Marsh, the focus of the said project, is a vast complex of river channels, small freshwater lakes and ponds, extensive freshwater marshes, and arable land in the basin of the Mindanao River traversing the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Cotabato, and Maguindanao.
Kenny is now working with the Netherlands Embassy for the Phase 2 of Project Ligwasan, which aims to integrate climate action and environmental justice into Bangsamoro governance, focusing on advocating for renewable energy opportunities in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and veering away from the extraction of natural gas and oil in the Ligwasan Marsh.
Prior to this project, Kenny led the organization of Advocates for Sustainable Ligwasan (ASUL) which currently has several chapters in Mindanao, particularly in North Cotabato, Cotabato City, and Datu Sinsuat.
At present, Kenny said he is also giving talks on climate actions, engaging youth participation, and working with stakeholders on sustainable development goals.
During the hangout, he expressed interest in accessing the People’s Survival Fund and was thankful for the lessons he learned from Mayor Coro during the hangout’s knowledge-sharing exercise.
Climate Reality Leader Richie Erwin Pasco of Davao City has been speaking on environmental and climate action. As a religious leader, Richie has led the Agdao Violin Institute. As a civil society leader, he was able to link up with the Davao Peace Council to provide assistance during the Marawi siege.
In Sibagat, Agusan del Sur, young Climate Reality Leader Carl Jebby Daug, a student of the Philippine Normal University, is actively involved in policy advocacy and engaging youth organizations in their locality to formulate policies for environmental protection and sustainable agriculture.
In Mati, Davao Oriental, Art Gerald Godoy has been actively attending the Climate Reality Project Philippines webcast and workshops. He is currently earning units with the Asian Institute of Management in Disaster Management Leadership Course.
With the change of national and local leadership next month, Mindanao Climate Reality Leaders see political dynamics as a challenge in advancing climate actions, especially in cases where climate action is not a priority of the new administration. But they all agree with Toni that we must remain hopeful, not hopeless.
It is always good to replicate success stories of local government units that truly support policies and implement programs for environment protection, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and disaster resilience. The municipality of del Carmen, Surigao del Norte has shown the world that it can continue to thrive amid the climate crisis. Why don’t we learn from them?
Marisol is the Mindanao Coordinator of The Climate Reality Project Philippines. She has been working in the development sector for 16 years. She is a specialist in training, institution and community development, information, education, and communication (IEC), and gender and social inclusion. Aside from being a broadcast journalist since 1997, she also served as the Project Coordinator of the Global Fund for Malaria Component Project for 10 years and as Training and IEC Specialist of the Philippine Cold Chain Project.
ABOUT HISGUTANANG KLIMA SA MINDANAO
Hisgutanang Klima or “Climate Discussions” is a space that aims to amplify the climate stories and initiatives of the more than 100 Pinoy Climate Reality Leaders in Mindanao.
It is one of the monthly columns launched by The Climate Reality Project Philippines to elevate the climate discourse and strengthen climate action across all regions in the Philippines.