On Wednesday, December 9, 2015, at the UN climate negotiations in Paris, leaders from France, the Philippines and Conservation International (CI) signed a grant agreement to bring 1.5 million Euro (US$ 1.6 million) to build ecosystems and community resilience in the central Philippines over the next four years. The agreement was signed at Le Bourget by Francois-Xavier Duporge, General Secretary of FFEM (Fonds Français pour l'Environnement Mondial) and Peter Seligmann, Chairman and CEO, Conservation International, and witnessed by H.E. Ségolène Royal, Minister of Ecology, France, and Secretary Nereus Acosta, Presidential Adviser for Environmental Protection, Philippines, who signed the grant agreement. Kicking off in late 2015, the project will protect the Municipality of Concepcion (Iloilo) and will be managed jointly by CI-Philippines and the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Philippines.
The project supports the development of "green-gray infrastructure," meaning a combination of natural defenses such as mangroves and man-made structures such as coastal armoring and small levees. This two-pronged approach outlined for the grant is crucial: 70 percent of Filipinos depend on agriculture and the oceans, said Philippines Environmental Secretary Nereus Acosta: "The only social security they have is nature."
Two years ago, just before the UN climate talks in Warsaw, Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) devastated the Philippines, killing more than 6,000 people and displacing millions more. The Philippines was particularly vulnerable: Much of the country's mangrove forests, which would have helped buffer communities from the storm surge, had been cleared to create fish ponds to provide food. Coastal areas, like Concepcion, were hit especially hard.
"Haiyan's strength, and the destruction it caused in the Philippines, opened the eyes of the public to the impacts of extreme weather events," said Enrique Nunez, Executive Director, CI-Philippines. "Combining the strongest elements of nature and man-made technology will bolster our nation's ability to face the uncertainties of climate impacts in the future."
Typhoon Haiyan's devastation underscores the need to act now, according to Conservation International Chairman Peter Seligmann. "We're in a moment when nations across the globe are feeling the impact of great storms, droughts, increased tides," he said. "This is a moment when vulnerable nations need the help now. It's not a matter of the future, it's immediate."
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Senior Communications Manager, Asia-Pacific