Building resilience to climate change locally: The case of Valenzuela City, Metro Manilla
Valenzuela is a city in the capital region of the Philippines. It is highly urbanized with a population of approximately 570,000 people. Valenzuela sits between three rivers: the Tullahan, the Polo, and the Meycauayan. Since the 1980s Valenzuela has experienced regular flooding and storm surges during the rainy season. Flooding can result in standing water for weeks. During this time businesses are shut down, people are stranded in their homes with limited supplies, and outbreaks of water-borne diseases occur; making flooding both an economic and public health problem. Climate and ecosystem disaster risk reduction approaches have been undertaken at the city-level for years, but these initiatives lacked resources and therefore focused on only short-term solutions.
In 2011 Valenzuela was chosen as part of the international program Partners for Resilience (PfR). This program is designed to provide resources and expertise in establishing short, medium, and long-term solutions to building resilient communities. Focus areas include: first aid training, basic life support, disaster preparedness, contingency planning, community flood drills, long-term urban planning, and solid waste management. PfR works to involve local stakeholder groups to establish programs such as: city-wide recycling which reduces solid waste that can clog the drainage system, economic planning such as changing agriculture practices to better promote drainage and establishing evacuation alarm systems. The PfR program works to include local stakeholders such as: residents, business owners, religious groups, and social movements.
In 2013 after the tropical storm Trami the program was deemed successful as it helped to reduce the economic and human impact of the storm. Program administrators identified several enabling factors that led to successful outcomes. These included:
- The adoption of national and local policies. Previous efforts lacked long-term political commitment but PfR helped to pass national and local acts that, for example, mandated disaster risk reduction at the local level requiring the development of specific and detailed action plans, informing communities on risk strategies, and requiring solid waste reduction.
- Partnerships and volunteerism. PfR partnered with organizations such as the Red Cross, the Catholic church, and the Win Youth club that already had strong on-the-ground organizations to disseminate information and materials.
- Encouraging and providing pathways for learning. Valenzuela, like many urban environments, has diverse residents. PfR sought to provide multiple ways for residents to learn disaster risk reduction. One particularly useful method was participatory videos. These videos used local residents and were shown at community gatherings to inform citizens how to adjust and transform their individual actions to collectively lower their climate risks.
- Community ownership of systems and stakeholder buy-in. By forming groups of local stakeholders, programs were also built that provided financial ownership for the community. One example of this was an early warning system that chimed three times based on water level. The third chime meant the area should fully evacuate. It was found that when the community purchased and maintained the system, they were more likely to follow the alarms.