THE havoc left by the recent Tropical Storm Paeng was unprecedented in terms of damages in property, lives and environment since the massive devastation of Typhoons Ondoy in September 2009 and Odette in December 2021.
Equally disturbing, and shameful, "Paeng" was more vulgar as it exposed the unparalleled uselessness of the administration’s unpreparedness, and the ineffectiveness of its much-bragged climate change mitigation and disaster risks management systems, technologies and infrastructures.
"Paeng" tore them down in just 48 to 72 hours and shamed the national and local government officials and private sectors alike in ways they had not expected.
What "Paeng" is telling us now is simple and clear: there is something wrong in the country’s climate change mitigation and disaster risk reduction strategies, programs and infrastructures.
Let us look at some facts.
For quite sometime now, maybe a decade or so, millions from national government treasury are allocated annually to the legislator’s pork, Climate Change Commission, down to the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Offices (DRRMOs) of local government units (LGUs), and their attached or mandated anti-disaster volunteer frontliners.
Millions more are fed every year for capacity development for climate change mitigation and Disaster Risks Analysis and Preparedness, including procurement and upgrading of anti-disaster equipment and technologies, and the conduct of anti-disaster drills.
Billions likewise flowed into massive construction of roads, bridges, farm-to-market roads, multi-purpose buildings, flood prevention canals and walls, and more for the last six years.
On top of these, billions more fund from the big companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Official Development Assistance (ODA) of big countries, international funding institutions and no less the United Nations and European Union, are being channeled to the national government, civil society organizations and private foundations, and dozens of experts doing so called climate crisis response and community resiliency programs and projects.
If one looks at all the above initiatives, one would logically note that our government must be doing better now in climate change mitigation and disaster risk management than prior to and immediately after the Ondoy in 2009 and Yolanda in 2013.
But disasters after disasters in recent years seemed to have shattered that expectation.
It is apparent now that after all the social media-hyped legislations, declarations, commitments, programs and projects, conventions and assemblies, nothing really significant is underway in the government and non-government sectors’ fight for climate change mitigation, disaster risks reduction management, climate change adaptive land use and urban planning, community resiliency and sustainability.
In the aftermath of Paeng, I was informed that some public and private institutions and experts in climate change and disaster risks management are preparing to conduct funds and performance audit, for the purpose of establishing what have been accomplished and not, how the billions for climate concerns were spent, and to identify the verifiable social impact of various initiatives on the matter.
If true, I commend them for the steps they are mulling towards getting the bigger picture of the disastrous anti-disaster programs and projects.
I believe though that more important than funds and performance audit, the government should take the lead in re-examining the fundamental flaws in the government and private sectors’ climate change mitigation and disaster risk reduction strategies that need urgent reexamination and rectification.
One, the government does not have a coherent and clear framework of strategy and policies in addressing climate crisis and community resiliency and sustainability. Its climate change commission and few support institutions are useless. The LGU DRRMOs are too elitist, conceited, self-belief in their activities, often shutting their doors for community participation, or engaging in community-based DRR programs.
In fairness, only the DOST-Pagasa (Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) seems to be doing something commendable, especially in terms of releasing weather information updates. Their information however is sometimes short of accuracy and proper contextualization making people over or poorly prepared for disasters.
Their attitudes and actions make the public, especially private-sector interest groups, often getting mixed signals from the government and therefore confused.
Two, the government’s platform for climate change mitigation and disaster risk reduction is too exclusive, limiting their war room to so-called experts and technical people, thus depriving opportunity for cross-sectoral and community participation.
This prompts civil society organizations and private corporate sectors to take their own initiatives which often run counter to government programs and projects. In effect, we get so many programs and projects in climate change concerns which often compete rather than complement, producing not only lots of open tension wires, but gaps, overlaps and redundancies, and therefore waste of resources and efforts.
Three, crooked corrupt politicians and their errand people have their hands dipped into the projects’ kitty thus lessening the effectiveness of its services.
Fourth, a more serious concern in this regard is the importance of climate change adaptability in national and local land use planning and urban development planning systems.
Government orders and memos to integrate climate change mitigation in the city/town land use and development planning, are being followed mechanically for compliance.
Most LGUs are hardly making significant progress. They continue to allow greedy big developers and corporate interests to dictate urban development, with little regard for the environment and people’s welfare, health and safety.
To date, we may be advancing in some aspects of the fight against climate crisis and community resiliency. But winning the battle to the point of reversibility of the present crisis is definitely far from desirable.
The above issues have to be addressed squarely and decisively if we want to prevent more loss of lives and damages in properties and nature, now and onward.
Despite its serious weaknesses, the government is still in the position, given its authority and command of resources, to address the said concerns. All it needs is to let go of its arrogance, entitlement and superiority.
It has to work to the level of non-government organizations, the civil society organizations, and private experts in climate science, and together put forward a more focused, progressive, transparent and participatory strategy to address climate change mitigation and community resiliency.
In the long run, our platform should be one where climate justice ends people’s suffering from environmental burdens caused by our own greedy human kind.
November 03, 2022
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