In Lanao del Norte, a province on the southernmost island of the Philippines, the pristine beaches and coastal reefs conceal conflict. For the last fifty years, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have been fighting the national government for greater autonomy and independence. Though the three parties have negotiated loose peace deals, reoccurring outbursts of violence cast doubt on the future of Mindanao.
Lanao Aquatic and Marine Fisheries Center for Community Development (LAFCCOD) has been working in the coastal villages, or barangays, of Lana del Norte since 1987. LAFCCOD believes that development cannot happen without taking a holistic approach to the issues in Lanao del Norte. For that reason, it implements programs that aim to empower coastal communities, including community-based coastal resource management, sustainable livelihoods, peace building, gender mainstreaming and disaster risk reduction. It is one of the most active NGOs in Mindanao in advocating for developing small seaside communities and responsibly managing the coastal environment. But it is not easy to work in this part of Mindanao.
In 2008, 300 armed members of MILF stormed coastal barangays in Lanao del Norte killing 30 people and forcing locals to flee into the mangrove forests. Camps for Internally Displaced People (IDP) were established nearby as a result.
But the political and religious strife is not the only issue that must be addressed. Conflict between rising sea levels, unpredictable weather patterns, environmental exploitation and traditional fishing communities are also becoming worse. In 2011, Typhoon Washi swept across Mindanao, where illegal logging and mining helped cause flash floods that killed over a thousand people in nearby Cayagan de Oro. Washi also caused 265 families in LAFCCOD communities to lose their homes or livelihood.
The LAFCCOD disaster risk reduction program supported by Give2Asia highlights the ways that local NGOs are best placed to understand and address the needs of the communities in which they work. This program will directly benefit over 300 families of marginalized fishermen in barangays Kulasihan and Muntay, the location of the 2008 MILF attack. Here, continuous threats from violence and unpredictable weather reduce income of local fishing operations and lower food security.
With support from Give2Asia, LAFCCOD is engaging the barangays in comprehensive disaster risk reduction work that will also strengthen and diversify sources of income. To address the direct threats of disasters and climate change, LAFCCOD is forming community task forces to conduct hazard mapping, disaster planning and simulation drills. Emergency Response Teams made up of community members are being formed and trained, and early warning systems established.
In further support of these vulnerable communities and the environment on which their livelihood depends, LAFCCOD is also working to rejuvenate the region’s coastal mangrove forests, essential to protecting the community from hydro-meteorological disasters. To this end, existing mangrove forests will be expanded, two nurseries established, and community task forces on resource management formed and trained.
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