PROACTIVE measures” are what one takes to keep an untoward event from occurring or, if prevention is out of the question, to soften the impact of its negative consequences. Hence, declaring a state of calamity in 17 mountain barangays was not at all proactive of the Cebu City Council vis-à-vis the death of farm animals.

Nor was it an exercise of good judgment. The Cebu City Council declared a state of calamity without probing for the real cause of the farm animals’ deaths. To die of the cold is to freeze to death. But as anybody can easily surmise no animal could have frozen to death in temperatures that were way above freezing. Besides, animals are generally more resistant to the cold than people. How then can they be dying from it when people, who are more vulnerable, are not?

What possibly happened, which is what the council should have verified first, was that the animals could have succumbed to diseases that the unusually cold temperatures gave rise to. But, even if the council said that is what they meant, they were still way off the more pressing reason for declaring a state of calamity.

For, the real calamity consisted of the crop failures suffered by local small farmers who stand to lose their livelihood for as long as this unusual weather persists. They will, therefore, need a quick reaction or immediate emergency response from the city council. To have to resort, however, to emergency measures to prevent further deterioration of the farmers’ condition is a clear indication that the city council failed to take genuinely proactive measures beforehand.

But then there’s really nothing new and surprising here. Besides not being proactive, the Cebu City Council is often quite slow to react. Thus, fire-prone areas are re-blocked after a fire. Drainage systems are unclogged after floods. Roads are widened after gridlock. And now discussion (just discussion, mind you) on crop insurance is revived only after the weather has devastated the crops of small farmers.

With climate change clearly upon us it is reasonable to expect the worst. We, therefore, better start preparing for the worst that is still to come by taking “genuine proactive measures” such as expanding and unclogging existing drainage systems, moving people out of danger zones, building typhoon-proof evacuation centers, drawing up an evacuation plan, and organizing rescue-rehab teams. Above all and I mean above all, there is long-term food security for vulnerable groups like small farmers that the city council must insure.

What the city council needs to realize is that people’s suffering is further aggravated when disaster strikes because of their failure to take genuine fundamental proactive measures.