Siegfred Aldous Lacerna

Published: March 26, 2024

Laurice Jamero, a scientist based on Bohol island, has dedicated her career to working with rural communities across the Philippines to bolster their disaster preparedness, risk management and climate change adaptation strategies. 

Years of engagement with residents of small island communities have made Jamero believe that women’s perspectives are pivotal in understanding the climate crisis as a social issue rather than solely a technical problem.

Jamero works as the Resilience Coordinator at the Manila Observatory, mainly supporting policy-related works of local government units by bringing their interests to international climate negotiations. 

Prior to her current role, Jamero finished her PhD in Sustainability Science from The University of Tokyo, where she conducted research focusing on small islands’ adaptation strategies to climate change. 

In her interview with Climate Tracker, Jamero expounded on the importance of women leaders, especially in rural areas vulnerable to the climate crisis, how they can advocate for policies at the national level, and how she balances professional work with personal interests. 

You’ve been with vulnerable communities in the climate crisis. How vulnerable is the women sector when it comes to the risks of climate change?

LAURICE: I clearly remember post-Odette in December 2021, we did not have electricity, running water nor internet for months. We also had difficulty accessing food, drinking water and fuel for weeks, so everything was rationed. Can you imagine what it was like preparing dinner at that time, with no electricity at night or a working stove? You couldn’t sleep well either because it’s too hot, and yet have to wake up at dawn to line up for some drinking water (usually limited to just 1 bottle per family). Can you imagine what doing laundry was like? Omicron was surging again at that time, but there are large crowds everywhere—in the deep wells, the public markets, the gasoline stations—and everyone was getting sick. And in the midst of all that, we, of course, also have to take care of our children. 

Women were doing our utmost to keep our households running and our families safe despite all these difficulties. That is why it was very important for us for our community to come together to support women and see things from our perspective as well. At one point, the men in our community declared that “laundry is not essential” when deciding about water rationing, which launched a whole debate on the local radio. Looking back, it was such a funny and ignorant thing to say.

How do women, especially those that are living in small communities in rural Philippines, take part in the fight for climate justice?

LAURICE: I was visiting a small island community months after Odette, and had the opportunity to speak with the women of the local women’s organization. We had a very emotional conversation. Their community was badly hit by storm surges, so the women’s organization mobilized what little resources they had to provide what was needed—food, water, emotional support. 

I came back for a second visit, this time bringing with me some 60 leaders from all over Southeast Asia to meet the women and their community. There the leaders were able to see first hand what loss and damage looked like; the island community, and especially the women, gave a face to an otherwise theoretical, complex and polarizing concept. 

Later that year, through the advocacy of many civil society organizations (including those ran by the Southeast Asian leaders who visited the islands), the Loss and Damage Fund was established. I can’t help but think that the women’s organization played such a huge role in inspiring our local leaders to move more collaboratively and urgently.

What do you love to do in your free time when you’re not doing your usual work?

LAURICE: As much as possible, I try to work only 4 days a week between 9 am and 4 pm, giving me lots of free time in the evenings and keeping my Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays open. I made these adjustments in 2024, which was such a hard thing for me to do, but also necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

I love to go to the beach (I live on a small island called Panglao blessed with beautiful beaches) and play guitar during my free time. I also like to try my hand at home gardening, and growing our own food.

Where do you find inspiration to continue doing your work?

LAURICE: I have a very strong sense of justice. After all, I myself am a small islander and a survivor of a rapidly intensified super typhoon. So climate change is a very personal issue for me!

Unfortunately, based on my own lived experience, the urgency of the climate crisis is growing by the day. So it seems my work over the next few years has already been cut out for me. My hope is that by 2030, we have already made significant progress in addressing the crisis in order to prevent more communities like mine from suffering.

How can the youth, especially women, lobby for policies that are pro-environment?

LAURICE: I work a lot with Gen Z actually, including many young women leaders—so I am loving that very much! For me it’s not a question of how they can participate in this work—but how WE are/are not giving them genuine opportunities to do so. 

I still see a lot of barriers for early career researchers, especially young women in science, whose potential contributions are being underestimated (their fresh ideas barely make it to the project design, and they are often limited to implementing a small part of the project already decided by others who are more senior). 

I believe young scientists can play an important role in policy-making especially, since many of them have the science communication skills and openness to collaboration—not to mention moral authority—needed for the job. 

Currently, in different climate action movements, there is a global momentum to include a movement that integrates a gender-responsive approach. What could change in our fight for climate justice if more women, especially in the youth sector, would join the cause?

LAURICE: In the Philippines, we have a lot of women leaders, including young women, in the climate movement. I think having women’s perspective would help us understand the climate crisis less as a technical problem and more as a social problem, which it ultimately is. 

According to the ASEAN State of Climate Change Report (2021), the majority of ASEAN member states prioritize food and agriculture, water, health and forest(ry) and biodiversity for adaptation. So far, only Cambodia has identified livelihood and poverty as a priority sector, which I think is a big blind spot especially for a region like ours. 

My feeling is that women are more attuned to community life and how ordinary people are affected by the climate crisis—so considering them in adaptation planning would be much easier if we are able to have more women leaders.

Read more stories of other remarkable Filipina women in climate action here.