Baguio lacks laws on climate change

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Monday, December 2, 2013

VITAL legislations needed to combat Climate Change remain pending at the City Council despite a growing clamor for these legislations to better prepare the city against calamities.

Legislations including the Environment Code, the local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management ordinance and the Comprehensive Land Use Plan remain pending in the City Council.

Ordinances like the Anti-Plastic bag ordinance, a method of waste reduction, despite being in effect early this year remain unimplemented due to pending amendments with the introduction of biodegradable plastic bags.

Climate Change Commissioner Heherson Alvarez said local ordinances are the first line of defense of local governments against this global event but the real challenge comes in implementing these local legislations and in formulating action plans applicable to every household.

Demystifying the concept of Climate Change in a forum at the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary, the former senator stressed there is no time for talks in the cabinet cluster and for local governments to debate on the effects of climate change adding its effects are already upon us.

Relocations for the most vulnerable communities especially those in coastal areas and riverbanks are vital to preempt calamities as strong as Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and other similarly strong typhoons.

The country, he said, must not wait for talks to prosper in the international community such as the recently concluded UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw, Poland since most developing countries like the Philippines have seen developed countries are unwilling to admit they have the obligation to help other vulnerable countries to climate change.

Alvarez emphasized local governments must brace themselves for stronger than usual typhoons and come up with early warning systems and disaster risk reduction action plans.

Also local governments must have the foresight to a more science-based decision making and planning as well as slowly reduce its carbon footprints by adhering to renewable sources of energy.

Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda admitted there are proposals which need to be fast tracked in the next few months.

These policy recommendations, Tabanda said, are still not final but stressed adaptation and mitigation measures must already be incorporated into the Annual Investment Plan of the city for 2014.

She said infrastructure are the first line of defense working these out with agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways to prevent the loss of lives due to calamities of similar scale to Yolanda and the 1990 killer earthquake.

Simple planning on sewerage and drainage systems is important to prevent soil erosion, landslides and flooding.

Tabanda also said while the city has maps and identified danger zones there is no consolidation of these information wherein all hazards from earthquakes, landslides and flood-prone areas are detailed in one multi-hazard map.

This data, she said, must be presented to barangays to enable officials to prepare evacuation and response measure as well come up with engineering interventions.

Tabanda noted, more than two decades after the earthquake, the city has yet to draw up an encompassing evacuation plan known to residents so they know where to take refuge during disastrous events.

Still learning from the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda, Councilor Peter Fianza said barangay knowledge is not enough stressing individual self-help training of families is important to prevent the loss of lives.

Fianza said a family disaster plan is as important as going back to the basic unit of society. Individual preparedness is the most important shield of most residents against similar disasters, he stressed.

But according to the legislator, who once served as City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management action officer during his stint as city administrator, there is also a need for the National Climate Change Action Plan approved by President Benigno Aquino III only last year to have a local version.

But this local Climate Change Action Plan, he suggested, must not be based on the national action plan but a more realistically based plan from the bottom, which means from the barangays to the families, up to the local government for a more effective and logistically possible response during disasters.

Better planning on response and mitigation of worst case scenarios and relevant infrastructures are important he said but the doctrine of self-help must be ingrained in all residents to better prepare for similar calamities.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on December 03, 2013.

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