Press Release
October 10, 2014

Villar: Make vulnerable sector stakeholders in environmental programs

Sen. Cynthia Villar, speaking before the Deltas in Times of Climate Change international conference in Rotterdam, the Netherlands recently, raised the need to make the people living in vulnerable areas stakeholders in government's environmental programs.

Villar said in creating environmental projects and responding to threats of climate change, there is a need to 'hit two birds with one stone.'

"Our experience has shown us that for environmental projects to be sustainable, it should be beneficial to poor citizens, by supplementing their livelihood among others," she added.

The Las Piñas River Rehabilitation Program, which Villar spearheaded, has succeeded in cleaning up and rehabilitating the Las Piñas River and has given birth to livelihood enterprises.

"The process of changing people's mindsets and instilling discipline was a long and tedious one for us. At first, the residents were uncooperative. So I thought that the only way to make them cooperate is to make them a stakeholder in the undertaking. Community involvement, local stakeholder engagement, capacity-building exercises, public-private cooperation are really critical factors in ensuring the success of any environmental program," Villar said.

The project provided jobs and livelihood to more than 500 poor families in the city. Over 500 similar projects were also put up in other parts of the country. The project bested 38 countries and won the United Nations (UN) Water for Life Best Water Management Practices in Spain in 2011.

"I solved many interconnected problems such as poverty reduction through livelihood opportunities; pollution prevention and waste minimization through cleaning up and de-clogging the river; and it also saved our city from massive flooding," Villar said.

The Nacionalista Party senator, who has been actively leading the crusade against the reclamation of the Ramsar-listed Las Piñas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Eco-Tourism Area (LPPCHEA), said mangrove forests should be preserved in order to prevent the destruction from storm surges.

"Problems due to climate change are realities that Filipinos have been facing, particularly in recent years when extreme weather conditions such as super typhoons, storm surges, massive flooding, El Niño and La Niña phenomena among others have been causing death and destruction in our country," she added.

Citing reports, Villar said the Philippines is considered and often listed as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.

A recent United Nations report identified the country as the third-most at-risk from climate change in the world, ranked behind the South Pacific island nations of Vanuatu (with a population of 255,000) and Tonga (with a population of 105,000).

In another list by environmental organization Germanwatch, the Philippines placed fourth in the 2013 Global Climate Risk Index, among more than 190 countries around the world that have suffered the most extreme weather events such as flooding and storms over the past 20 years. During the budget hearing of the National Housing Authority (NHA) at the Senate last month, Villar has pushed for a budget allocation to relocate about 3,000 informal settlers in the waterways of Las Piñas City and Bacoor, Cavite. She was able to get the commitment of Atty. Chito Cruz, NHA General Manager, to make the relocation a priority.

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