As one of the fastest growing countries in Asia, the Philippines faces unprecedented environmental challenges, with disproportionate impacts on the poor and women. Ineffective management seriously degrades the country’s significant biodiversity resources; water and air pollution levels exceed generally accepted standards; greenhouse gas emissions are increasing from the transport and power sectors; and the country is ranked as one of the world’s most vulnerable to the impacts of environmental disasters.
For the Philippines to become a more stable, prosperous and well-governed nation, the country must become more environmentally resilient and better able to cope with the impact of natural disasters and recover quickly. Natural resources play an important role in the Philippine economy. While agriculture, fisheries and forestry represented about 9 percent of GDP in 2012, they accounted for nearly one-third (32.2 percent) of total employment. Equally important, natural capital provides energy, water, flood control, storm mitigation and other environmental services that benefit the entire country, including cities. USAID assistance improves natural resource management in the Philippines; promotes water and energy security; and reduces vulnerability to and natural disasters.
Abuan Integrated Watershed Management Project (AIWMP)
Unpredictable weather patterns threaten the long-term livelihoods of farmers from Isabela Province in Cagayan Valley, the Philippines’ top corn producer. AIWMP and local stakeholders improve the adaptability of watersheds, farmlands and other economic sectors in the Abuan Watershed in Ilagan, Isabela. AIWMP pilots the Department of Science and Technology’s smarter agriculture program by enhancing the capacity of farmers to adapt to climate change. In FY 2016, this USAID-supported grant increased the capacity of 5,288 stakeholders to adapt to impacts of climate variability and change.
Biodiversity and Watersheds Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystem Resilience
The Philippines is one of the world’s 17 mega-biodiverse countries, containing two-thirds of the earth’s biodiversity, and 70 percent of the world’s plants and animal species. It is also one of the world’s hotspots, with a large number of endangered and threatened species. B+WISER improves natural resource management and reduces risks from disasters. In partnership with the national and local governments and other stakeholders, B+WISER conserves biodiversity in forested areas and reduces forest degradation in targeted, priority watersheds. The project also builds capacity to conserve biodiversity, manage forests and support low-emissions development, as well as contributes to disaster risk reduction at the subnational level. In fiscal year 2017, B+WISER improved the natural resource management of 1,683,151 hectares of land, which is more than 26 times the size of Metro Manila, or almost as big as Palawan province. It has also reduced 2.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent to removing 574,000 cars off the streets in one year.
Building Climate Resilience in Water-Stressed Communities (CREST)
Most rural communities in the Philippines lack access to clean drinking water and improved sanitation. Extreme weather events and environmental degradation present additional challenges to sustaining clean water supply and healthy watersheds. CREST improves water supply, water management, sanitation and hygiene in 50 waterless communities (including 26 Typhoon Haiyan-affected communities in Leyte) to mitigate vulnerability to environmental impacts. CREST installs low-cost, locally manufactured ram pumps, combined with water storage and piping systems, to deliver potable water to communities. In FY 2016, these initiatives helped 5,852 people have better access to clean drinking water and 7,528 people to improved sanitation services.
Building Low Emission Alternative to Develop Economic Resilience and Sustainability (B-LEADERS)
Global economies face worsening impacts of extreme variations in weather. Countries all over the world, including the Philippines, are searching for a balanced solution that sustains robust, resilient and efficient growth, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. B-LEADERS strengthens the capacity of the Philippine government and its key partners to plan, design and implement Low-Emissions Development Strategies, and contributes to the formulation of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions in the energy and transport sectors. B-LEADERS has reduced, sequestered or avoided 455,352 metric tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to removing more than 96,000 passenger vehicles from the roads in a year, or raising almost 12 million seedlings for 10 years. It has proposed and adopted 23 laws and policies, including Executive Order 30, creating the Energy Investment Coordinating Council in Order to Streamline the Regulatory Procedures Affecting Energy Projects. B-LEADERS trained 264 institutions on greenhouse gas inventory and energy issues at the national and local levels. It has leveraged $473 million in energy investments, establishing 156.86 megawatts of operational renewable electric generation capacity.
Buy-in to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Mission Support Participating Agency Partnership Agreement
Ocean acidification and changes in sea temperature threaten biodiversity in the Philippines, particularly in fisheries and coral reef ecosystems. Building on its earlier regional work on the Coral Triangle Initiative, NOAA partnered with USAID to help the Philippine government strengthen its scientific, technical and management capacity and improve environmental and human resilience. NOAA works with the Department of Science and Technology and local universities to exchange knowledge on priority concerns and partners with other stakeholders to support vulnerability assessments; conduct climate and ocean change modeling for fisheries; and address illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. Through these activities, USAID is protecting and rehabilitating coral reef ecosystems. In the last year, NOAA partnered with the USAID’s ECOFISH project to help the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to train over 100 fisheries officers on the application of an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. It has completed curricula and supported training activities on marine protected areas primarily for 12 mentors representing 33 protected areas across all 18 regional offices of the DENR and more than 30 national area protected area managers.
Buy-in to the U.S. Forest Service Participating Agency Program Agreement (PAPA) for Sustainable Forest Management
USAID has partnered with the United States Forest Service since 2011 to help build the capacity of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, local governments, indigenous peoples, communities and the private sector in sustainable forest management, including forest change monitoring using geospatial technologies, forest inventory analysis forest land use planning, forest restoration, forest fire management and development of the national forest monitoring system.
Energy Policy and Development Program (EPDP)
Energy is a crucial element of economic growth and development. Few academic and policy programs exist in the Philippines to develop and promote research and best practices in the energy sector. EPDP strengthens the capacity of the Philippine government to formulate coherent and evidence-based policies towards environmentally sound energy development and has helped establish an academic program at the University of the Philippines. EPDP also informs private sector business strategies for sustainable and broad-based growth. EPDP provided tailored research and evidence-based policy advice to the Department of Energy and the National Economic and Development Authority, including inputs to the Filipino 2040 vision and scenario-building exercise. EPDP has completed 12 research studies on energy, the environment and related issues, as well as two policy fora – one on Demand Aggregation and Supply Auctioning of Power in the Philippines and another on Institutionalizing Energy Projects as Projects of National Significance.
Harnessing Markets to Secure a Future for Near-Shore Fishers
Natural and man-made factors have dramatically reduced biomass and ecosystem integrity in the Philippines. The project advances economic incentives for marine biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of local fisheries through managed access. Transitioning to sustainable near-shore fisheries supports the well-being of fishing communities; secures food supply for poor and vulnerable communities; and restores and sustains critical ecosystems. In the last year, the project has established over 50 community savings clubs for small-scale businesses that diversify coastal livelihoods. Additionally, the project piloted two business models in two project sites; completed business training activities; and coached partner fishers in developing business models. Since October 2016, the project has trained over 3,500 people in sustainable natural resources management and biodiversity conservation.
Partnership for Biodiversity Conservation III (PBC)
According to the 2011 Tropical Forestry and Biodiversity Analysis commissioned by USAID, the destruction of biodiversity and natural resources remains a core environmental problem in the Philippines. Now in its third phase, PBC is strengthening environmental law enforcement to improve biodiversity conservation in the country. PBC primarily works with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Philippine National Police, Department of Justice and the judiciary. PBC assistance has led to the development of manuals for enforcing wildlife, fisheries and forestry laws. The project also helped create a computer-based tool to combat wildlife trafficking and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; deputized hundreds of wildlife and environment and natural resources officers; formulated environmental law enforcement action plans from the subnational to national levels; and facilitated the Supreme Court’s development of the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, which aided in the timely disposition of environmental crime cases.
The Philippines’ rich biodiversity is under threat, mostly from human activities, including deforestation and forest degradation, illegal fishing and illicit wildlife trade. Unfortunately, local stakeholders, who have the greatest stake in protecting the environment and the natural resources therein, have limited economic incentives, financial support and capacity to manage high biodiversity areas. Protect Wildlife reduces direct threats to biodiversity within its geographic scope through an integrated approach that focuses on: facilitating behavior change through effective communications; increasing investments in conservation; building capacity in biodiversity conservation and combating wildlife trafficking; improving decision making through evidence generated by science, technology and innovation; and strengthening environmental law enforcement. In the first year of implementation, Protect Wildlife improved the management in three protected areas covering over 140,000 hectares, trained more than 400 people in natural resources management and biodiversity conservation, reached almost 2,700 people through behavior change campaigns and secured $100,000 in private sector investments in anti-wildlife poaching actions.
Water Security Under Climate Risks: A Philippine Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for the Agriculture Sector
The Bicol River Basin is highly vulnerable to the impacts of floods, droughts and typhoons. Inequitable distribution and an inadequate supply of irrigation water has affected rice production and sharing of water resources. The Bicol Agri-Water Project (BAWP) improves water security to enhance agricultural development in the region. BAWP strengthens capacity of farmers to apply and adopt climate-resilient farming practices, develops tools to support decision-making and improves watershed governance. These activities help increase the resilience of farming communities to the impacts of natural disasters. As a result of the project’s assistance, 635 stakeholders are better to adapt to the impacts of climate change and variability in FY2016.
U.S. Peace Corps Small Project Assistance
When Peace Corps Philippines offered to co-locate its volunteers in USAID project sites, the agencies deployed volunteers to projects focusing on biodiversity conservation and environmental resilience. The volunteers work with community counterparts to identify common concerns, develop strategies to address these concerns and implement small-scale community-level projects. Since the beginning of the program, USAID and Peace Corps have awarded 45 grants, which are strengthening capacities of local environment and fisheries officers and communities to protect and manage biodiversity and natural resources.