Cabaero: Going beyond the heat

Cabaero: Going beyond the heat

Now is the time to prepare for heavy rains and flooding expected to come after this period of extreme heat in the country.

Dried-up rivers and creeks should make dredging easier, facilitating the clearing of waterways of sediments and transporting these elsewhere. Infrastructure repairs can proceed with fewer interruptions, as there are no rains to impede the work. For homeowners, now is the opportune time to do repairs, especially on roofs, gutters, and downspouts. Subdivisions should seize the opportunity to inspect culverts and drainage systems.

However, are these actions being undertaken? While the responsibility for work on private property lies with the owners, urgent attention is required for repairs on government property, as funds for such purposes are typically allocated in annual budgets. Unless, of course, there was a failure in planning or prioritizing, which can happen in local governments with weak leaders.

Warnings have been made on what to do before and during the El Niño phenomenon, with the government taking the lead and various sectors in the community joining forces due to the exigency of the situation.

The Pagasa (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) has been consistently warning about dangerous heat index levels, the Department of Health has been addressing heat exhaustion and related illnesses and providing guidance on self-protection measures. Meanwhile, the Environment department and water authorities have been raising concerns about drying dams and diminishing water supplies, and the power sector has been highlighting the consequences of high demand on supply.

In the private sector, business organizations have advocated for worker protection and suggested necessary adjustments for companies. Even the Church has issued statements advocating better care of workers and prisoners. The Churchpeople-Workers Solidarity has urged employers and the Labor department to ensure workers’ health and safety by adjusting work hours, providing shaded rest areas and free drinking water, ensuring compliance with health and safety requirements, offering paid health breaks, and conducting regular medical check-ups for workers.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has also called for immediate decongestion of jails and prisons through the immediate and proper implementation of laws on bail and release on recognizance.

I recall a police station visit after a car accident, where prisoners in a jam-packed small cell were pleading for water. I bought 10 bottles of mineral water from a sidewalk vendor but had to purchase more, fearing a potential jail riot due to not having enough for all of them. This was before the onset of El Niño, so one can only imagine the dire circumstances now, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius.

What we have observed so far are primarily knee-jerk reactions rather than proactive responses, to the effects of the El Niño. What is urgently needed is a commitment to building resilient communities able to withstand the impacts of a changing climate—be it El Niño for now or the powerful storms expected to follow—by taking decisive action now.


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