Pinoys now climate change-aware

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 (The Philippine Star) - December 15, 2014 - 12:00am

Just when we thought Typhoon “Ruby” had left the country last Thursday, heavy thunderstorm and flashfloods suddenly struck us in Metro Manila over the weekend. And to think we’re already in the middle of December by which time the rainy season is over and we start to enjoy the cooler period in our country. Blame it on climate change.

Fortunately, our guard is still up against bad weather after having prepared earlier for a super typhoon. However, Ruby considerably weakened by the time it made landfall in Luzon. Ruby though left a swathe of destruction where it directly hit in Eastern Samar.

Based on latest update of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), 19 people were killed due to Ruby last week. Government authorities believed better preparation saved a lot of lives.

Citing the fact that 20 typhoons on average visit the country and our most recent experience with Ruby, the Palace noted with satisfaction a “culture of preparedness” seemed to have taken root already. The Palace credited the national government agencies down to the local government units (LGUs), and most importantly, the Filipino people themselves for finally having imbibed this “culture of preparedness.”

After our country’s tragic experiences with storm surges and super typhoon like “Ondoy” and “Yolanda,” no one is safe. Being prepared though for the worst can save lives. 

While many agree on the challenges posed by these natural calamities and potential disasters they bring upon a country, there seemed to be no end in sight on how the global community would address climate change.

This was how the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference ended in Lima, Peru held from December 1 to 12.

Attended by government officials from 195 participating countries – the Philippines included – nothing concrete came out after 12 days of negotiations.

The conference aimed among other things, to advance the outline text of an agreement on climate change to be finalized in Paris by the end of 2015. The overarching goal of the Conference is to come to a global agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gas, or carbon emissions. Another key battle was over the initial commitments that countries are expected to make by the end of March next year.

Countries were divided anew over whether developing countries should take on obligations to cut carbon emissions.

As usual, developed countries insisted on restricting them to carbon cuts. On the other hand, developing countries want the developed nations to include finance for climate change adaptation measures.

In a privilege speech last week, Senator Loren Legarda noted with concern the climate change negotiations at the conference in Lima were practically at a standstill. She called it as “a case of paralysis by analysis.” Legarda joined international experts, lawyers and scientists in initiating an unprecedented legal action before the International Court of Justice. It seeks to hold to account all states and their government duty-bound to take serious and sustained action to address and face the climate crisis.

In her role as the UN Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific, Legarda supported moves to bring to the UN General Assembly the issue of climate change and how nations are addressing the phenomenon. Under this legal procedure, she explained, all governments of the world will be asked to submit their comment. This exercise will force them to seriously think about the climate crisis, she stressed.

As a parallel move here in the Philippines, Legarda filed Senate Resolution No. 1030 that called upon the country’s leaders headed by President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III to formally inscribe on the agenda for the 70th Session (2015) of the UN General Assembly the proposal to refer to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for an Advisory Opinion the question: “Under international law, what are the legal duties of states to protect humankind of the present and future generations from the climate crisis?”

The senator cited this movement is not just about the opinion of the ICJ as it also requires any person who intends to join the initiative to effect changes in their lifestyles in order to reduce their carbon footprint and impact on natural resources.

She underscored the fact disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation do not fall under the exclusive domain of government. It is, as she aptly put it, a shared responsibility of government, communities, businesses, individuals, and the media to put together into building resilience in our communities to cope with the phenomenon called climate change.

Herself a former broadcast journalist before she turned to politics, Legarda called upon her erstwhile colleagues in the Philippine media to enlighten the general public about climate change. Speaking from her long years in media, she stressed the responsibility of a journalist to deliver timely and relevant information to the public does not happen only when there is an incoming typhoon, storm surge, flood, or volcanic eruption.

Legarda’s advocacies on climate change and disaster risk reduction started as far back as 1998 when she first became senator. These concepts are not exactly very popular issues to most people. The high-sounding jargon did not register well with many voters when she twice ran but lost in the vice presidential elections in 2004 and in 2010

Nonetheless, it did not stop Legarda from her staunch advocacy on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction measures. She has found satisfaction in the growing awareness of the challenges of climate change among many Filipinos now.

Incidentally, Legarda has been quiet about her plans, if any, to run again for VP in the coming May, 2016 elections. She has not figured in any surveys as she remains busy half-way through her second and last term at the Senate ending in 2019 yet.

We will know from the next presidential elections if the more climate change-awareness of Pinoys can now deliver votes. Unlike before when Legarda championed this advocacy, Interior Sec. Mar Roxas – who has been hands on and in the middle of natural or manmade disaster wherever it strikes in the country as the NDRRMC co-chairman – will be able to test this. That is, if the presumptive presidential bet of Liberal Party gets anointed by P-Noy.


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