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MANILA, Philippines -- Environmental and risk reduction advocates meeting in Cagayan de Oro City urged the House of Representatives on Tuesday "to immediately pass the proposed law that will establish the People's Survival Fund," a mechanism that will support the climate adaptation needs of local governments and communities and which they said would help prevent a recurrence of the deadly flashfloods that tropical storm “Sendong” unleashed last December.
Sendong’s floods claimed over a thousand lives and caused billions of pesos in damage to Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities.
The town hall meeting to assess future risks faced by Northern Mindanao was attended by over a hundred people representing cooperatives, universities, community organizations and civic groups.
The activity was co-organized by the anti-logging coalition Task Force Macajalar, Federation of People's Sustainable Development Cooperatives and the climate policy think tank Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities or iCSC.
"The PSF is designed as a special trust fund for local governments and vulnerable communities,” the iCSC said in a statement. “Once enacted into law, the PSF will finance local climate adaptation programs that can involve comprehensive vulnerability assessments, the purchase of or training for the development of local agrometeorological capacity, support for land-use planning, crop shifting programs that anticipate annual prolonged drought conditions, or ecosystem management in biodiverse but global warming-stressed areas.”
"Localities will plan and generate adaptation and disaster preparedness programs, but funding must come from national government. Climate change is a problem additional to issues prevailing on the ground, such as poverty, education and health," Kristine Ravanera of Save CDO Now, a coalition working on ecological and development issues in Cagayan de Oro, said.
"Hindsight is always ugly in cases with such tragic magnitude as the Sendong disaster. It's time we act with foresight by enacting the People's Survival Fund into law. It's time for the Lower House to act with urgency," she added.
The Peoples Survival Fund Bill was passed by the Senate last September. Its main author is Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
But the ecology committee of the House of Representative has yet to issue its report for second reading in plenary.
Cagayan de Oro second district Congressman Rufus Rodriguez, one of the 79 co-authors of HB 2558 or the PSF Bill, welcomed the expression of support for the measure.
"The House must rise to the occasion, for the sake of vulnerable Filipino families. I will gather more PSF support from my colleagues at the soonest possible time," Rodriguez said.
Task Force Macajalar campaigner BenCyrus Ellorin said "severe rainfall and decades of deforestation became a lethal force when it combined with official incompetence and negligence." Task Force Macajalar has been at the forefront of popular action against the further denudation of the 177,000-hectare watershed of Cagayan de Oro.
"The Sendong tragedy was a disaster foretold several times over, some as early as 20 years ago. But few listened," said Ellorin. "We can avert pain and loss of life if we act as if our personal future is at stake, because it is. The victims of Sendong must not be forgotten and we hope Congress will pass the PSF soon," Ellorin said.