TACLOBAN CITY- Local government and civil society leaders from Eastern Visayas join forces in spearheading the region’s climate action and biodiversity conservation.

“Few local governments in the Philippines talk about climate action, but the responsibility and accountability of local leaders are fundamental. There is so much that we can do, and partnerships with civil society are crucial for us to learn more about critical issues we are facing, including climate change and biodiversity conservation,” said Mayor Eunice Babalcon of Paranas, Samar.

Paranas, along with Guiuan and Salcedo in Eastern Samar, are the bioregions of the Multi-Actor Partnership on Enhanced Local Climate Action (MAP-ELCA) project of the Manila-based think tank Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), which was launched in Tacloban City ON July 28.

The three-year project aims to champion successful local climate action and biodiversity protection cases through multi-sectoral collaboration. Representatives from local communities, government agencies, civil society organizations, academe, and private sector entities in the featured municipalities signed a statement expressing their full support and commitment to MAP-ELCA.

“Climate change is a global problem that really needs leaders at the local level,” said Atty. Melchor Mergal, Eastern Samar Board Member and a resident of Salcedo.

MAP-ELCA is a project under Investing in Sustainability and Partnership for Inclusive Growth and Regenerative Ecosystems (INSPIRE), which is implemented by the Gerry Roxas Foundation (GRF) and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). “Biodiversity conservation and climate action are at the core of INSPIRE’s vision, empowering civil society and local communities to take the lead in natural resource governance, climate change adaptation and mitigation,” said GRF Chief of Party Rebecca Paz through a recorded message.

Eastern Visayas has been at the forefront of climate change impacts for years, including extreme weather events such as typhoons and extreme heat; and slow onset events such as sea level rise. The region was the first to be devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) back in November 2013.

Guiuan Municipal Administrator Kinna Kwan recognized the vulnerability of their municipality to the impacts of climate change and emphasized the government’s responsibility to act. “Nearly 10 years after Super Typhoon Haiyan, our communities are thriving. Not only are we thriving, but we are also fighting and acting on the climate crisis, for our people now and for future generations,” she added.

“We do not have to look far to be inspired; it all starts here – within us and our communities. Let us work hand in hand to create a more resilient and sustainable future for Eastern Visayas. Hopefully, we will be able to inspire more communities in the coming years,” said Angelo Kairos dela Cruz, Executive Director of ICSC. (PR)