Climate proofing the Last Frontier

The recent proposal of Board Member Albert Rama, formalized as a local ordinance, to align the provincial government’s development planning principles and strategies alongside important objectives relating to the challenges of climate change is worthy of consideration.

While there may be issues with some sectors about how exactly this may be done – such as what are the institutional mechanisms required to implement it – the drift of the proposal deserves a serious attention of all our local policy makers.

The problem of climate change is real and it is knocking on our doorsteps. It was Yolanda who first barged into the door and many more will follow. The Philippines is among the most vulnerable nations on earth, according to many studies, that are facing the dire consequences of earth’s changing climate patterns.

Over the last few years, it has been the gargantuan tasks of nations to define a comprehensive response to the imminent challenge of climate change. There are two main areas of concern that keeps them on the planning and bargaining tables year after year. One concerns embracing the science and identifying practical solutions to try and slow down the warming of the earth’s temperature by reducing carbon emissions and making each and everyone commit to targets. Another is enabling the most vulnerable countries to confront and adapt to its inevitable presence.

Rama’s suggestion is a watershed idea because it is a local response to the global challenge of climate change adaptation. The difficult reality is that there remains little or no political constituency to make such thinking a mainstream strategy in governance. At the end of each day, proposals and ideas such as this end up gathering dust in the archives. The jaded observation is simply because effective local governance is not at all defined along these terms.

It took Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 to institutionalize disaster management and risk reduction in our country’s local governance. While the national framework for climate change response has been adequately defined, with push coming mainly from international agencies and interest groups, the overall response remains in the category of grudging. This is very much evident in the ranking of  the present government’s priorities.

Rama’s proposal is thus a challenge to the local government of Palawan to break the trend and come out in all passion and determined purpose to make a dent in the arena of local adaptation. Such a show of interest should leave external agencies even to match the effort by providing technical assistance and even financial support.

After all, Palawan is indeed the country’s Last Frontier. It is a challenge for governance to understand this tagline as not simply a branding issue but an underlining of importance. Rama’s proposal, incomplete or even knee jerk as it may seem, is a good beginning for meaningful deliberations in adopting a change of mentality about governance as a whole.

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