Nature-based solutions in Del Carmen, Philippines take global stage

Mangrove forest in Del Carmen, Siargao, Philippines. (Screenshot from a video produced by the Earthshot Prize Awards 2023)

Siargao Island in the Philippines is getting international attention beyond tourism as the municipality of Del Carmen champions the island’s nature-based solutions on the global stage—from COP28 to the prestigious Earthshot Prize—to encourage local governance and action in developing climate-resilient communities.

A mangrove forest in the small island of Siargao, Philippines has been protected by the local government and communities in Del Carmen since 2010. When a super typhoon struck the island in 2021, roles were reversed: the lush forest proved capable of protecting the people too.

In a story about Del Carmen’s recovery after the super typhoon, many coastal villagers reported that the mangrove forest shielded their houses from huge waves, lessening damage and casualties.

Numerous studies have long acknowledged the effectiveness of mangroves in coastal protection against natural hazards. Acting as a natural barrier for nearby coastal lands, mangroves can reduce vulnerability and risk from wind waves and storm surges. As typhoons become stronger and more frequent because of the climate emergency, more and more communities are realizing the importance of mangroves as a nature-based dampener against such hazards.

Nature-based solutions, as defined by the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change, are actions and policies that use nature’s resources to protect and restore ecosystems, while helping resolve society’s challenges. These solutions aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote healthy ecosystems, and reduce the likelihood of flooding, soil erosion, drought, and other extremes of the climate crisis.

In Del Carmen, the mangrove forest stretches up to 4,871 hectares—one of the largest contiguous mangrove forests in the Philippines. The mangrove conservation initiative in Del Carmen started in 2010 through the initiative of its local government to collaborate with residents who were previously involved in illegal mangrove cutting. The initiative grew through the collective effort of stakeholders in the public and private sectors, civil society organizations, and local communities. Moreover, the Del Carmen mangrove forest has been recognized by the Philippine government as a wetland of international importance to help pave the way for its inclusion into the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. 

In recent years, efforts of the Del Carmen local government to share their experience in establishing and sustaining their Mangrove Management Program helped the municipality make waves in the international arena as a leading local government in community-led mangrove management. 

Mangrove forest in Del Carmen, Siargao, Philippines from a bird’s-eye view, featured in a video about the Earthshot Prize Awards 2023 finalists including the Coastal500. (Screenshot from a video produced by the Earthshot Prize Awards 2023)

Mayor Alfredo Coro II, who led the establishment of mangrove rehabilitation and conservation initiatives in Del Carmen when he first became mayor in 2010, is a member of the Coastal500, the largest global network of mayors and local government leaders committed to working towards thriving and prosperous coastal communities.

In his reflection published by the global nonprofit organization Rare, Mayor Coro said he joined Coastal500 because he wanted to share Del Carmen’s best practices in community-led coastal protection and conservation with other cities and municipalities around the world so that they can be replicated.

The Del Carmen Mangrove Management Program was featured in a video by the Earthshot Prize Awards 2023, a global environmental award, when the Coastal500 became a finalist in the award’s “Revive Our Oceans” category. 

Mayor Alfredo Coro II of the Municipality of Del Carmen. (Screenshot from a video produced by the Earthshot Prize Awards 2023)

Mayor Coro also attended the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) last November in Dubai, United Arab Emirates as a member of the Coastal500 to advocate for coastal communities on the frontlines of climate change.

“These experiences, with the Earthshot Prize and COP28 in Dubai, made me realize the collective power of the leaders of neglected small fishing villages and municipalities to drive change in their communities—if their leaders have access to appropriate information, replicable action, and localized scientific narratives,” said Mayor Coro in his reflection.

Aside from its mangrove management program, Del Carmen also strives to develop other nature-based solutions through marine protected areas, watershed management, and seagrass restoration.

Mayor Coro also highlighted in his reflection Del Carmen’s multi-stakeholder approach to developing its natural resources to become nature-based solutions—an important measure for cities and municipalities seeking to rise above and take control of their future in the face of the climate crisis.

“Our progress and resilience were made with a lot of support from multiple partners, allowing us to appreciate the science, understand our desired future, and work to develop Del Carmen’s sustainable development. In time, our small coastal community became a global model of how local governance can influence positive change,” said Mayor Coro.

The municipality of Del Carmen is a member of ICLEI, having previously taken steps to pursuing a low emission development pathway. Mayor Alfredo Coro is also currently part of the Regional Executive Committee of ICLEI Southeast Asia.

Mayor Alfredo Coro II (rightmost), a member of the Coastal500, attends the awarding ceremony of the Earthshot Prize Awards 2023 in Singapore with Coastal500 Program Lead Rocky Sanchez Tirona (center). (Photo submitted by Mayor Coro)

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