Named Best Island in Asia by Conde Nast Traveler in 2018, Siargao Island in the Philippines draws hordes of international and local tourists for its white sand beaches and top surf breaks. The growing crowds, however, are beginning to place a toll on the capacity of the island.
The municipality of Del Carmen in Siargao Island is one of the nine cities part of the Building Resilience at Community Level project of the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF). The project aims to support urban poor communities, especially vulnerable groups, through an inclusive process that enhances people’s well-being and resilience against disasters and climate change shocks and stressors. To achieve this, each city is tasked to identify and implement a community-led project.
Enter the Siargao Urban Resilient Future (SURF) Project. This was born from six months of exhaustive participatory planning and decision-making. A community stakeholder group (CSG), composed of members from various groups in the city, led the discussion and assessed the challenges of Del Carmen. The SURF Project aims to conduct water assessments to study alternative water sources in the island and it will work on establishing a waste recovery and recycling center and implement a community-based solid waste management program with expanded service coverage.
Challenges raise community’s concern
The Del Carmen CSG found that their municipality faced a number of key issues. First, Siargao perennially has water shortages. The island has a limited supply of freshwater—local springs dry up during the summer months, while groundwater sources are now experiencing saltwater intrusion. This leaves poor residents particularly affected, as well as those living in remote areas. There is no potable water and water for domestic use.
This volatile water supply also negatively affects the agriculture, tourism, and fisheries sectors, as well as the biodiversity and marine ecosystems in Del Carmen.
Second, because of the city’s booming ecotourism industry, there is an influx of migrants, tourists, and commercial establishments that have caused a sharp increase in solid waste. There is no established waste collection system in Del Carmen and in the whole island of Siargao only 10% of waste is properly collected. Solid waste management is a big challenge for the municipality and if not properly addressed, it could adversely impact the pristine state of the island and the quality of life for residents and tourists alike.
Members of the community stakeholder group in active discussion of community issues and developing a plan of action to address these issues.
Inclusive approach increases project ownership
UCCRTF team guided the CSG in ensuring that the SURF Project applied a community-led approach. Those traditionally excluded from local planning and decision-making were given a voice. In particular, the engagement of youth, women, senior citizens, farmers and fisherfolk, and people with disability was prioritized in all the stages of the resilience planning process.
This participatory planning approach provided significant added value in terms of the community owning the process. They were crafting discussions, decisions, and actions based on community needs and at the same time were increasing community understanding and support for the project.
Aside from Del Carmen, the Building Resilience at Community Level project funded by the UCCRTF includes Patuakhali and Faridpur in Bangladesh; Yangon in Myanmar; Sialkot and Abbottabad in Pakistan; and Malay (Aklan), La Trinidad (Benguet), and Janiuay (Iloilo) in the Philippines.
The CSG discusses the problem of water scarcity during a workshop.
Main photo (top): Then Mayor and currently Vice Mayor-elect Alfredo Coro sharing the future development plans for Del Carmen.