Climate change is exacting a heavy toll on Filipino lives, properties and livelihoods, the United Nations said, warning that it could hamper the Philippines' ambition of becoming an upper middle-income country by 2040 if left unaddressed.

Multiple indices rank the Philippines as among those most affected by extreme climate events. Over the past decade, highly destructive typhoons have hit almost every year, with related annual losses estimated at 1.2 percent of overall gross domestic product.

In July, Typhoon Egay (Doksuri) brought widespread flooding and landslides to the Philippines, killing at least 39 people and forcing 12,000 from their homes.

The UN cited the mountainous province of Bukidnon in the southern Philippines where 'local indigenous groups are being forced to adapt to the alarming impacts of climate change.'

With UN support, communities are making significant strides, using centuries-old knowledge to forge sustainable solutions.

Local tribal leader Jemuel Perino discussed the success of local initiatives, supported by the UN Development Program's Adaptation Fund Climate Change Innovation Accelerator (AFCIA), in educating his community on effective prevention and mitigation techniques to deal with the growing impacts of climate change.

'The indigenous cultural communities have their own centuries-old knowledge, systems and practices and have kept them alive,' Perino said. 'In the Philippines, the government is promoting their use in environmental protection and conservation.'

As chairman of the Council of Elders of the Bukidnon Umayamnon community, Perino has seen the impact of climate change up close. Erosion, deforestation and biodiversity loss have emerged as key threats with devastating implications for the culture, youth and livelihood of his people.

'In the Philippines, most of our forest lands and headwaters fall within the ancestral domains of the various indigenous cultural communities,' he said. 'There is a real need for the world to fully recognize their important contributions in conserving the environment that benefits the entire population.'

To combat the growing impacts of climate change in the region, Perino coordinates a locally organized project under the community-based organization, Bukidnon Umayamnon Tribe Kapu-unan To mga Datu.

Supported by the UN via an AFICIA grant, the project also seeks to tackle deforestation and pollution while generating sustainable income for indigenous peoples by promoting the planting of bamboo and cocoa by local farmers in Mindanao. That includes training people on cultivating, harvesting and marketing.

Perino explained that the initiative is slated to plant 20 hectares of vegetation along the Pulangi River. He added that bamboo is favored by the community to build houses that are more resistant to floods and storms.

After creating new bamboo and cocoa plantations in July 2022, farmers have already started to benefit. The project is currently providing income to farmers through temporary labor opportunities and is supporting families to buy food and other basic items.

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