People’s Survival Fund Seeks to Find Solution to Climate Crisis

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Since receiving regular allocations under the national budget in 2015, the People’s Survival Fund (PSF) has received 172 project proposals from 129 proponents (local government units and local community organizations) all over the country, amounting to a total of P14.57 Billion worth of climate adaptation initiatives, according to a report from the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr).

The PSF was created under Republic Act (RA) No. 10174, which was signed into law in 2012 amending the Climate Change Act of 2009 but received its stipulated P1-billion replenishable fund allocation under the GAA regular fund only in 2015. The P1-billion replenishable annual allocation intends to provide support on top of the yearly appropriations to LGUs for climate change related programs and projects. According to the Department of Finance (DOF), among the activities eligible for funding by the PSF are projects on water resources management, land management, agriculture and fisheries, and health, along with other activities that serve as guarantee for the risk insurance needs of farmers, agricultural workers and other stakeholders.

However, most of the proposals submitted to the PSF have failed to pass the initial screening due to incomplete documents or because the project activities are not eligible. PSF projects should clearly address the community’s climate vulnerabilities based on scientific and historical data. The objective of PSF projects is to provide an effective combination of engineering and non-engineering interventions, which directly address the area’s climate risks, and capacity building programs designed to empower the community and ensure project sustainability. Moreover, as a suppletory fund, it serves to fill the funding gap for climate change projects that are not funded by other government agencies.

The PSF Board chaired by the DOF has so far approved P310.34 million-worth of projects under the 2016 national budget benefiting six municipalities: Del Carmen, Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte; Lanuza, Surigao del Sur; San Francisco, Camotes Island, Cebu; Gerona, Tarlac; Sarangani Province; and Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte.

To date, P147.46 million of the approved financing has been disbursed to the LGUs. The BTr, which sits as alternate chair of the PSF Board, attributed this low disbursement rate to delays in project implementation owing to uncontrollable events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters affecting the project sites, and the conduct of national elections.

Of the approved projects, only the municipality of Del Carmen in Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte is on time in terms of implementation schedule, with the BTr already disbursing P39.24 million (48.6%) of the P80.7 million approved financing, De Leon said.

The BTr has so far disbursed P27.32 million of the P39.08 million approved amount for the project of municipality of Lanuza in Surigao del Sur; P5.41 million of the P33.89 million for the town of San Francisco in Camotes Island, Cebu; P5.71 million of the P38.1 million for Gerona in Tarlac; and P69.78 million of the P93.6 million for the province of Sarangani.

Nothing has been disbursed yet for the P24.99 million project of the town of Kitcharao in Agusan del Norte because the LGU still has to submit the required documents for the release of the funds, De Leon said.

De Leon said that for the period covering 2017 to 2018, the PSF Board Secretariat, with the Development Bank of the Philippines, performed desk appraisals on five projects with a total cost of P888.353 million. Following the streamlined process, the proposals were forwarded to the Climate Change Commission (CCC) – Climate Change Office (CCO) for additional review and evaluation.

National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon also cited in her report to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez the difficulties encountered by the LGUs in submitting their revised work and financial plans, which should first be approved by the PSF Board before further disbursements can be made to projects that are significantly behind schedule. The PSF Board Secretariat is working closely with these LGUs to speed up releases and ensure attainment of their intended objectives.

Apart from the six (6) approved projects that are now in the releasing and implementation stage, eight (8) of the 42 project proposals that have passed initial screening are being actively assisted by the PSF Board Secretariat and CCC as they undergo project appraisal and enhancement. If approved, these projects will fully commit the available PSF funds. The rest of the proponents have been informed of the results of technical reviews conducted on their proposals. The PSF Board Secretariat is now awaiting their response.

To encourage more LGUs to access the PSF, the Board has simplified the requirements for submitting a valid proposal. The original 14 requirements were reduced to only four: 1) letter of intent, 2) accomplished project proposal template, 3) annual investment plan (AIP), and 4) adaptation references (any of the following: Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessments, enhanced Climate Change Adaptation-Disaster Risk Reduction (CCA-DRR) Comprehensive Land Use/Development plans or Local Climate Change Action Plan).

Until the next call for proposals has been approved by the Board, the PSF Board Secretariat is currently prioritizing the projects submitted in 2017-2018 that are in the process of enhancing their proposals to address comments made by PSF’s technical experts. In the mean time, interested applicants may try to access assistance from the Climate Change Commission, which offers capacity building programs to local governments.