In every crisis, there’s an opportunity or call it a blessing in disguise in weathering a storm.

The Metro Iloilo-Guimaras and Canadian regions have been virtually connected through sharing of their respective learning experiences in rising from the wrath of typhoon and watershed conservation efforts.

On June 19, leaders and policy makers of a public-private partnership will sit down and talk about how they could prepare for the onslaught of disaster and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Themed “Under the Weather: Stewardship and Climate-Proofing for Urban Watersheds in Ontario and the Philippines,” the session will take place at the Black Creek Pioneer Village Visitors Center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) present the special round-table breakfast seminar free of charge.

“It’s for us to learn about how these two urban regions are advancing stewardship, leadership and innovation for their ecosystems and exchanging best practices between nations,” CUI said in a statement.

CUI president and CEO Fred Eisenberger will serve as moderator. The panelists are Brian Denney, chief administrative officer of TRCA; Gary Wilkins, watershed specialist of TRCA; Guimaras Gov. Felipe Nava; Soledad Sucaldito, Iloilo provincial environment and natural resources officer. Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog will also participate in the discussion.

What went before?

“Sometimes it takes a disaster to bring about transformational change,” CUI said.

It was in 1954 when Hurricane Hazel hit Toronto wherein the fast-growing urban region was unprepared for a climatic event of such magnitude.

In its aftermath, the TRCA was created with a mandate to manage the region’s rivers and floodplains.

More jobs, volunteers

Nearly five decades later, TRCA has assembled more than 40,000 acres of land (some 16,000 hectares) in Toronto region; employs more than 400 full-time employees; and coordinates more than 3,000 volunteers each year, CUI noted.

“From its original core mandate of watershed management, TRCA has evolved as a leader in applying sustainability practices and climate change adaptation on a watershed basis,” CUI stressed.

Living city

“The Living City” is TRCA’s guiding vision wherein human settlement can flourish forever as part of nature’s beauty and diversity.

Twin disaster

In 2008, a similar transformative event happened in Iloilo-Guimaras region, the country’s fifth largest metropolitan area when Typhoon Frank struck as one of the deadliest tropical cyclones ever. It hit the city-region particularly hard, destroying lives, homes, livelihoods and infrastructure, as rivers spilled their banks.

Technical support

Since then, the storm put in motion the Metro Iloilo-Guimaras Bio-region Project, which today is working to improve watershed management and disaster risk reduction across the region. Through a unique collaboration facilitated by CUI, TRCA has been providing in-the-field technical support to the initiative.

As part of CUI’s International Urban Partnerships Program, the undertaking receives a financial contribution from Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).