The Philippines, given its geography and topography, is naturally prone to natural disasters. It consistently ranks high in the list of countries with the highest weather-related losses (Global Risk Index 1998-2020, Germanwatch) and even gained the unenviable top spot for the country with the highest risk of climate change hazards (Global Peace Index 2019, Institute for Economics and Peace). Projections indicate more frequent extreme weather events – drought during the dry season and heavy rainfall during the dry season – between 2020 and 2050 (PAGASA, 2020).
One in five Filipinos are considered extremely poor (Intellasia, 2019), rendering millions doubly vulnerable and exposed to climate disaster. Most marginalized sectors include urban poor without access to affordable, decent and safe housing options, farmers whose livelihoods are highly dependent on weather and climate conditions, fisherfolk who face inundated communities and diminished fish supply, and indigenous peoples.
However, while climate change impacts disproportionately affect poor and marginalized Filipinos, its manifestations and impacts are not effectively communicated at the grassroots. At the same time human dimension and “view from the ground” narratives on the impacts of climate change are not fully reported.
It is with these contexts in mind that the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines Inc. with the support of the World Association of Christian Communication and the Bread for the World – German Protestant Agency for Diaconia and Development conducted project entitled CREATE: Climate Resilience Educ-Action Training and Enrichment for Philippine grassroots communities.
The CREATE Project was designed so that partner marginalized and vulnerable communities, including the peasants, fisherfolk, indigenous people and women, are (1) able to relate climate change and its impacts to their own lives, livelihoods and communities, (2) empowered to act collectively leveraged on their own collective strengths and traditional ecological knowledge and practices, (3) able to communicate climate change impacts and disasters effectively, and (4) better prepared when future climate disasters strike.
From the project, the CREATE Curriculum was developed through months of consultations with representatives of organizations from the abovementioned sectors. Teaching aids were also developed to complement the curriculum. There were five modules include namely Science of Climate Change, Impacts of Climate Change, Roots of the Climate Crisis, Climate Justice and People’s Movement.
To develop instructors of CREATE from sectoral grassroots organizations, a Training of Trainers was conducted on June 16 to 18, 2022. There were 10 participants from the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya (National Alliance of Small Fisherfolk Organizations in the Philippines, or PAMALAKAYA), Federation of Mutual Aid for the Poor (KADAMAY), the National Federation of Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines (KATRIBU) and the Pagkakaisa ng mga Mangingisda at Mamamayan ng Bulacan (PMMB or Unity of Fisherfolk and Citizens in Bulacan).
The participants from PMMB then served as resource persons and facilitators in the pilot CREATE workshop in the Municipality of Paombong in Bulacan Province. A total of 25 participants attended mostly from the fisherfolk sector. Aside from the discussion of the modules, the participants also conducted an action planning session wherein initial plans on climate action was laid out incorporating existing initiatives.
For one of the participants from the fisherfolk sector, she mentioned that her attendance in the Training of Trainers was a very emotional one. Since they lost their fight against a land reclamation project, they were displaced from their homes in the coastal area and lost access to their traditional fishing grounds. The mangrove areas that they relied on for crabs and shrimps are now submerged. They said that had they known how to clearly relate their situation to climate change, they would have better articulated their situation and gathered mores support from the local and national population. The training was the first activity that she joined since then. According to her, this rekindled her perseverance to continue with her participation in their organization so she can share with other communities what is at can happen to them if they do not take urgent and united action.
In the pilot CREATE workshop, one of the fisherfolk participant shared that the training was a very enlightening experience. Before the training, he said that all he thought about was earning income from fishing and not on protecting the fishing grounds that were providing precious catch. From the training, he realized that a fisherman cannot survive without the ocean and therefore he should be involved in community activities. He said that he should unite with fellow fisherfolk to protect their common fishing grounds from the negative impacts of climate change and destructive projects such as land reclamation.
At the end of the CREATE project, it is hoped that the initial activities done will lead to more united and coordinated climate action among sectors and communities in the country.