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Resilient Growth: How USAID is responding to El Niño

The Philippines is experiencing the worst El Niño on record. The impacts arising from dry spell and drought have resulted in damaged crops, water shortages and wildfires, affecting people’s ability to earn income.

El Niño is a naturally occurring phenomenon characterized by unusually warm sea surface temperature. It causes a shift in wind circulation, higher air temperature and reduced rainfall, affecting countries in central and eastern Pacific Ocean. Meteorological agencies across the globe have classified the current occurrence as potentially the strongest since 1998, which resulted in tens of billions of dollars in damages as well as thousands of deaths worldwide. In the Philippines, the current El Niño has caused widespread drought. This prompted 9 provinces, 6 cities, and over 20 municipalities to declare a state of calamity, with some local governments calling for national aid. Moreover, conflict and poverty conditions in hard-hit Mindanao have worsened due to crippling effects of water shortage on agricultural production.

El Niño in CDI partner cities

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is helping mitigate the impacts of El Niño worldwide. It is also supporting long-term planning to make communities more resilient to El Niño and climate-related shocks.

In the Philippines, USAID is working with its Cities Development Initiative (CDI) partner cities to build their resilience against the impacts of El Niño and climate change. The most affected cities include Zamboanga and Iloilo.

Zamboanga City was put under a state of calamity in January 2016. Its severe water shortage is exacerbated by El Niño. Critically low water levels in rivers and groundwater sources continue to threaten one of the biggest reservoirs of the Zamboanga City Water District in Pasonanca. Local news sources reported that with the water district rationing water, 98 barangays with 72,000 consumers are waterless for half a day. Meanwhile, 9 barangays in Iloilo City are experiencing water shortages due to drying water wells. Over the long-term, both cities are expected to experience reduced rainfall and warmer temperatures based on projections developed by the Manila Observatory.

Improving water security to support resilient and sustainable growth

Through its Water Security for Resilient Economic Growth and Stability or Be Secure Project, USAID works closely with local partners on measures that will ensure the long-term water security of both cities. It bolsters local capacities to implement a Water Demand Management Program, a tried and tested strategy used by water-scarce areas around the world to make the most out of water that is available.

USAID also provides technical assistance to jumpstart septage management programs. Reducing risks of water contamination contributes to improved clean water supply. Beyond the water sector, USAID helps Zamboanga and Iloilo assess their vulnerabilities to climate-related hazards and develop local climate change action and disaster risk reduction plans. With these in place, climate considerations can be integrated into their land use and development plans, with support from USAID’s Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (SURGE) Project.

The combined impacts of El Niño and climate change can undermine the development gains of Zamboanga and Iloilo as economic growth hubs. But with proper planning and disaster preparedness in place both cities can easily bounce back from adversities and stay on track toward resilient and sustainable growth.

Read more: Changing Climate, Changing Minds: How One Philippine City Is Preparing for a Water-Scarce Future

On April 6, 2016, USAID's Be Secure Project organized a forum entitled, “Sustaining Our Water: Forum on Hydrological Vulnerability Assessment” in Zamboanga City. Water expert Dr. Carlos Primo David presented the results of the vulnerability assessment of the city's water resources.

His findings showed that the city’s main water source – the Tumaga River – was insufficient to Zamboanga’s needs.

To adapt to long-term climate change, his assessment recommended using available water more efficiently and tapping other rivers as additional water sources. It also recommended constructing a low height reservoir on the river's headwaters to capture excess runoff, constructing embankments to reduce siltation during heavy rainfall, and increasing the water capacity of the treatment facility. About 80 participants attended the forum representing barangays, academe, national agencies, UN organizations, and other local and international non-government organizations.

Dr. Stuart White and Joanne Chong from Sydney University's Institute for Sustainable Development lead the discussion on water demand management.

Elsewhere in April, USAID held a series of activities to build capacity for maximizing the use of available water. Workshops on water supply-demand management were held in Iloilo on April 7 to 8, 2016 and Zamboanga on April 11 to 12, 2016. International experts Dr. Stuart White and Joanne Chong of the Institute for Sustainable Development of Sydney University for Science and Technology worked with participants in developing a model for supply-demand planning and identifying options for drought response. Real estate developers and associations who participated in the workshop shared their views on the role of water demand management as an economic investment for ongoing and future projects.

In Bohol, USAID is working with partners to lower retail power rates.

The Province of Bohol in Central Visayas marked a significant milestone in its aspiration for energy supply security and reasonably priced power for the island on April 4, 2016. Two Bohol Electric Cooperatives - BOHECO 1 and BOHECO 2, signed their respective short-and medium-term power supply agreements with GN Power LTD Corp. and Unified Leyte Geothermal Energy Inc. (ULGEI).

Witnessed by the Bohol Energy Development Advisory Group led by its Chair Gov. Edgardo Chatto, the two generation companies won the right to supply power in a competitive supply procurement process initiated by the unified 1 Bohol Power.

This favorable development in Bohol's power supply was facilitated through technical assistance of USAID's COMPETE Project. GN Power won as medium-term supplier of 24 megawatts for years 2019-2023 at a levelized price of PhP3.3654/kWh and ULGEI, as short-term supplier of 11 megawatts, 13 megawatts and 16 megawatts for years 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively at a levelized price of PhP4.4218/kWh.

With the signing of these agreements, the retail power rates in BOHECO areas are expected to be reduced by at least 9% in the short-term and at least 19% in the medium-term.

Bohol Governor Edgardo Chatto, who created the BEDAG as part of the province's post-disaster recovery efforts, congratulated 1 Bohol Power and expressed gratitude to USAID for providing guidance in this pioneering effort of the electric coops.

USAID COMPETE Project supported the BEDAG in preparing the Bohol Island Power Supply Plan, which triggered the aggregation of the Bohol electric coops and their joint competitive procurement of power supply.

Education partners in Tagbilaran City build on the gains of USAID's work in improving literacy and learning outcomes for elementary students.

In Tagbilaran City, USAID education partners continued to build on the gains of USAID’s Basa Pilipinas Project. Key officials from the Department of Education (DepEd) Bohol and Tagbilaran City Divisions vowed to sustain improved literacy and learning outcomes from the Project during an awarding ceremony for 30 teachers who completed Basa's pilot online course on effective literacy instruction for new K-3 teachers.

Basa Pilipinas is USAID's basic education project in support of the Philippine Government’s early grade reading program. Implemented in close collaboration with DepEd, Basa Pilipinas aims to improve the reading skills for at least one million early grade students in Filipino, English and selected mother tongues. This will be achieved by improving reading instruction, reading delivery systems, and access to quality reading materials.

USAID Mission Director Dr. Susan Brems (4th from left) with awardees of the City Leadership and Governance Program.

USAID helped improve capacities in health leadership and governance across the country. Leaders from 8 cities gathered in Manila in March 2016 to share their experiences in improving their respective cities’ health systems through the City Leadership and Governance Program (CLGP). Of the 8 cities, 4 are CDI partner cities: Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, Puerto Princesa and Zamboanga.

The CLGP is a three-module program to support, promote and develop health leadership and governance; strengthen health systems; and address health inequities. The program is developed and implemented by the Zuellig Family Foundation, in partnership with the Department of Health (DOH), United Nations Children’s Fund, Development Academy of the Philippines and USAID.

The gathering recognized more than 60 local health leaders for completing the training modules, participating actively in practicum activities, and demonstrating “Bridging Leadership” competencies. Through the program, cities showed significant improvements in identifying and addressing their priority health challenges, particularly in increasing facility-based delivery in the poorest urban villages of Batangas City from 83% to 91%, and Cagayan de Oro City from 52% to 83%. Facility-based delivery is safer for the mother and newborn as it is attended by health professionals while home delivery is attended by traditional birth attendants. Participation in the CLGP course enabled the two cities to recognize the gravity of high adolescent pregnancy rates.

In March 2016, Batangas City passed an ordinance creating an Adolescent and Youth Health Council to strengthen the promotion, implementation and monitoring of adolescent youth health programs. With USAID technical assistance through the LuzonHealth Project, the city developed the Adolescent Health and Development Program (AHDP), which supports USAID’s CDI goal of broad-based and inclusive growth with better health services. The AHDP will address the rising incidence of teenage pregnancy in the city, which increased from 708 in 2014 to 826 in 2015.

As part of the AHDP, Batangas City launched 3 Teen Health Kiosks and signed a Memorandum of Agreement that included representatives from the Office of the Mayor, City Health Office, Batangas National High School, Lyceum of the Philippines University-Batangas Riverside Campus and DepEd. The school-based kiosks will provide access to informative and interactive discussions and individual counseling sessions to over 6,700 students. To reach out-of-school youth, the kiosk located at the City Health Office is open every Wednesday afternoon to provide comprehensive medical assessments and information to adolescents about puberty, bodily changes, fertility, and sexuality.

In Zamboanga City, 10 out-of-school youth who recently completed a skills training of USAID’s Mindanao Youth for Development (MYDev) Project participated in an election forum on April 6, 2016. The forum served as a venue for informal settlers, indigenous peoples, farmers, internally displaced persons, children’s rights advocates and youth groups to converse with local candidates. Rondulf Egbus, USAID MYDev youth representative, asked questions about candidates’ programs against illegal drugs. The forum was organized by the Commission on Elections, Ateneo de Zamboanga University and civil society groups.

Also, USAID MYDev Project updated its skills training programs in Zamboanga City and other project sites to become more youth-oriented and responsive to current emerging markets. USAID MyDev with the Out-of-School Youth Development Alliances (OSYDA) held a market analysis workshop on April 6 to 7, 2016 in Zamboanga City. OSYDA came up with a list of 29 training programs, 20 of which fall under the sectors of food processing, construction services, household appliance repair, wellness, ICT and tourism.

City Planning Officers during a planning layout exercise.

In Puerto Princesa City, USAID's SURGE Project organized a workshop to improve the planning knowledge and capabilities of city planners from the 6 CDI partner cities on April 20 to 22, 2016. Eighteen City Planning and Development Office personnel from Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Puerto Princesa, Tagbilaran and Zamboanga learned current and innovative approaches in land use planning and urban development.

Topics included mainstreaming climate change adaptation, and disaster risk reduction,planning analytical tools, designing public spaces, transportation planning, and access to financing. These were complemented with sharing of replicable best practices by city planners, hands-on case study exercises and a study tour of the proposed site of the Cabayugan rural services center. The workshop is part of the Project's series of learning activities, which promoted peer learning among city personnel. The next training session will be conducted for CDI's City Environment and Natural Resource Officers.

Cities Development Initiative

USAID is working to strengthen the economic competitiveness and resilience of secondary cities outside of Metro Manila through its Cities Development Initiative (CDI). CDI seeks to advance the development of secondary cities as agents of growth that is inclusive, environmentally sustainable and resilient. Depending on the most urgent needs of the city, USAID provides a range of technical assistance, drawing from resources in economic growth, health, energy, environment, governance, and education to assist the cities achieve resilience and inclusive growth.

The CDI is a crucial component of the broader Partnership for Growth (PFG), a White House initiated“whole-of-government” partnership between the U.S. Government and the Government of the Philippines. The PFG aims to shift the Philippines to a sustained and more inclusive growth trajectory on par with other high‐performing emerging economies. Currenty, USAID has 6 CDI partner cities: Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Puerto Princesa, Tagbilaran and Zamboanga.


For more information on USAID's projects in the Philippines, click here.


Contact Us

USAID SURGE Project
9/F Salcedo Towers
169 H.V. Dela Costa Street
Salcedo Village, Makati City
Philippines 1227
Tel. +632 88-SURGE (78743)

Email: comm@surge.org.ph



CDI Newsletter Archive : March 2016