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PAENG and Climate Change

The clock is ticking. Cooperate or perish!

This forewarning did not come from your typical evangelical pastor exhorting his flock to high heavens to repent or face the wrath of God if they continue to sin. Rather, the speaker was no less than United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who spoke passionately at the start of the 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) Summit in Egypt yesterday, November 8.

Guterres’ admonition came to me, a green world advocate, as no surprise. I can imagine the tremendous pressures on his shoulder to deliver as head of the world’s most influential international center of nations working to achieve global peace, security, human rights, the rule of law, and development. Amidst the Pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the pending worldwide recession, the pressures may seem impossible. With billions of dollars spent on climate change conferences, summits, studies, meetings, programs, and projects what has gone wrong? The world is jolted by more and frequent disasters going from worse to worst, causing severe damage to lives and property. One study cites the World Bank’s prognosis that climate change will drive 132 million people into extreme poverty. Drought, scarce water, flooding, eruptions, depleted fish catch, etc., will affect more people worldwide.

The UN Conference of Parties (COP) refers to the countries that are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) that meets annually since 1992 to address climate change issues with updated responses, agreements, and climate financing.

“If humanity does not cooperate on cutting carbon emissions, the world faces a bleak future,” the UN Sec-Gen said sternly. “We are on a highway to climate hell,” he added, in exasperation, pointing to the disappointing current trajectory the climate response is going.

On the other hand, Filipinos have come to accept disasters as “normal” and a part of life. Last week, another supertyphoon codenamed “Paeng” left Bicol, the Calabarzon, Western Visayas, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Mindanao (BARMM) devastated, causing loss of lives, destruction to property, damage to agriculture, displaced communities and critical infrastructures knocked down. I’ve seen several electric posts in Bicol that were twisted by previous typhoons and now almost kissing the roads – unattended. All typhoons before “Paeng” have gone from worst to catastrophic.

Bicol is figuratively married to damaging floods, droughts, typhoons, landslides, soil erosion, and volcanic eruption. Add to these are diseases of livestock and agriculture. In 2020 alone, eight successive typhoons entered the country’s area of responsibility, all hitting Bicol in varying degrees. Most vulnerable are the poor rural folks, comprising more than half the region’s population, living in low-lying villages and near river channels. Bicol has all the ingredients for disasters to strike and cause grave damage all due to its geographic location, poor infrastructures, social inequalities, and weak government institutions and social services that cascade down the local level. All these are amid lingering poverty, unabated institutional corruption, patronage politics and global warming.

Climate Change

Scientists and global environment experts warn of more intense cyclones, storms, and typhoons coming. Unless governments stop destructive environmental practices like pernicious cutting trees, reckless mining, pollution, and large-scale burning of fossils that cause global warming, the planet is in a danger zone, its people endangered species. Burning fossil fuels causes the earth’s surface temperature to rise. As the climate warms, the conditions governing cyclone formation change and become more destructive like the typhoons we experience all year round.

Local Response

The devastation climate change is causing will continue. It is now at a dangerous level. But, do we accept disasters as part of life and just a matter of innovating disaster responses, like holding more Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) training seminars in every barangay? Is it simply building more evacuation and disaster relief centers or raising funds and having more AYUDA distribution from politicos at every evacuation center?

The most dreaded face of climate change is abject poverty, as it impacts our health, environment, and the economy at the local level. Yet, the evidence is all around. It is time to review the many laws, legislations, policies, and programs and projects at the local level to address climate change and disasters.

One law stands out. RA No. 10121, or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act of 2010, provides a comprehensive, all-hazard, multi-sectoral, inter-agency, and community-based approach to disaster risk management through the formulation of the National Disaster Risk Management Framework. The law stipulates that since we cannot reduce the severity of natural hazards, the most doable opportunity for reducing risk lies in reducing vulnerability and exposure.

The law is a progressive piece of legislation that aims to be proactive, people-centered, and multi-sector in building resilience to multiple, cascading, and interacting hazards and creating a culture of prevention and strength among the people. But, while it integrates the programs and plans of different agencies, NGOs/CSOs, and educational institutions, how has it been inclusive, proactive, and anticipative, as the law provides, to ensure its policy objective of anticipating and reducing risk? How many LGUs know about it or if they do, are enforcing it? As a green world advocate and as a Bicolana I wish to see typhoons like “Paeng” as just a visitor who come and go with reduced stress and damage to our lives and property.


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