Guiuan, Eastern Samar

The municipality of Guiuan is located in the southernmost tip of Eastern Samar, between Leyte Gulf and the Philippine Sea. It covers a total land area of 17,564 hectares with a 160-kilometer coastline, encompassing three small islands (Homonhon, Sulu-an and Manicani) and the main island areas. Guiuan is well known as the home of diverse species of marine flora and fauna, and one of the largest marine landscapes and seascapes in the Philippines covering almost 60,000 hectares marine reserve designated as part of the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS). Completing a ridge-to-reef ecosystem, the municipality also has lowlands, mountains, and hills usually utilized for agriculture related activities and cliffs that are characterized by a limestone-ridge system found traversing its northernmost boundary.  

Despite the richness of their biodiversity and ecosystem, the municipality is not safe from the impacts of extreme weather events. In fact, Guiuan is known to be the first municipality where Typhoon Haiyan first made its landfall, which led to millions of damages in properties and economic activity. Apart from that, the Guianons also observed occurrence of sea water intrusion causing saline potable and household water. Rain-induced flooding especially in the river intersection and mainland Guiuan was experienced due to soil saturation and siltation. Rising temperature also caused long dry spells that decreased crop and livestock production and quality as well as cases of heat stroke, respiratory, and skin infections in immunocompromised and physically weak citizens, as well as increase in food and water-borne diseases. These, among others, are the impact of slow onset events such as the temperature increase, sea level rise, prolonged precipitation, and biodiversity loss.

“The idea of a sanctuary started when the experts saw that most of the corals were gone mostly because of the devastation brought about by the typhoon,and also by the action of many illegal fishermen…I need to protect the sea, our ecosystem, because this is where I get the food for my family, but also for the rest of the community, because everyone here in Guiuan are dependent on the resources of the sea.”–Edmon A. Telyaen, Bantay Dagat, President of the Samahan han Bantay Dagat han SUNGOBA in Aktibong Nagkahiurosa (SBDSAN)

The Guiuanons recognize that the impact of the super typhoon is evidently seen after the fact yet the impact of slow onset events is worse and threatens a long term impact to the municipality. They also recognize the fact that these impacts are worsened by their own doings. An eye opener, especially for the fisherfolk, is the presence of unusual sand bars from residues of dead corals due to illegal dynamite fishing. The aftermath of typhoon Haiyan is a turning point for Guiuan to thrive even further from the rebuilding process to more sustainable long-term climate action.

“While formulating the local climate change action plan (LCCAP) we recognized it was a very lengthy process, there were too many priorities. From this, the climate change action framework (CCAF) was developed. The CCAF focuses on prioritized and integrated programs for action to achieve resilience objectives of the local government and stakeholders.”Rectito Melquiades, Guiuan Sanguniang Bayan Secretary and GRSDGR Coordinator

Through the combined efforts of the national and local government as well as international non-governmental organizations, Guiuan was able to rebuild its economy through emerging businesses though micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), community-based agriculture, and livelihood opportunities from ecotourism potentials, and established the Bantay Dagat or sea wardens to strengthen the protection of the municipality’s marine sanctuaries. The local government then established the Guiuan Recovery and Sustainable Development Group for Resilience (GRSDGR), a multi-stakeholder cooperation platform led by the Sangguniang Bayan to advance long-term climate adaptation strategies for the municipality. Through the formulation of their Climate Change Adaptation Framework (CCAF) in 2018 and local climate change action plans (LCCAP), the LGU’s science and evidence-based approach for adaptation targets extensive studies on soil quality, salinity of wetland areas, water testing; enhancement and enforcement of environmental policies; mapping and monitoring of fishery, agriculture and watershed activities; and ultimately ecosystem protection and management for rest and watershed activities. 

“Everyone needs local ownership…Joint commitments are crucial to sustain…In GRSDGR meetings, it is the concern and participation of all stakeholders to come up with a program. All stakeholders worked on it during the formulation of the CCAF with the purpose to work towards our achievement.” –Catalina A. Capanang and Joarth B. Sabula, Science teachers at Guiuan National High School


Featured Adaptation Strategies in Guiuan, Eastern Samar

(Photos by Isabella Mendoza and Juan Miguel Torres)