Unity is the key

BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Ambassador B. Romualdez (The Philippine Star) - November 15, 2020 - 12:00am

Some Fil-Am community leaders privately told me that even if they were for the Republican candidate, they are happy that one of the upsides of the incoming new leadership is the renewed focus on climate change. The United States formally withdrew from the 2015 Paris agreement – the only one to do so – which made it challenging for the rest of the world to achieve the desired target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

Scientists say any rise in temperature by more than two degrees Celsius would have a severe impact on many parts of the world with rising sea levels, highly destructive tropical storms as well as severe flooding and droughts. According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information, the United States has suffered from 279 weather and climate disasters since 1980, with the cost of damage estimated at $1.85 trillion.

Studies have shown that tropical cyclones, including storms and hurricanes, have become slower, which means they now linger in one area and thereby drop more rainfall as a consequence. This is also why storms have become even more devastating and destructive because of the consequent flooding that pose a greater threat to property and the lives of people.

This year alone has been really disastrous for the US, with hurricanes and wildfires that have cost $1 billion in damages. California for instance suffered from the most devastating wildfires – the worst fire season on record according to scientists – while Hurricane Laura in August battered Louisiana and left thousands of people homeless.

Many can still remember the destruction caused by Typhoon Harvey in 2017 – a category 4 hurricane that made landfall in Texas and Louisiana which dumped an estimated 20 trillion gallons of water equivalent to the water supply requirements of New York City for 50 years. To this day, rehabilitation efforts continue for the areas that were hardest hit by Typhoon Harvey as extensive infrastructure repairs and improvements are needed on streets, drainage and other public facility systems.

One of the campaign promises of president-elect Joe Biden is for the US to rejoin the Paris climate agreement and push legislation to shift the US to clean energy and create green jobs with a $2-trillion investment plan. Saying climate change is the “number one issue” for him and describing it as an “existential threat to humanity,” Joe Biden warned that climate change “is going to actually bake this planet” if it continues to go unchecked.

Our good friend, former senator and now Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, was one of those who was extremely happy about the possibility of the United States rejoining the landmark Paris accord. This is expected to take place as soon the US sends a letter to the United Nations, which technically would take effect after 30 days. Loren was extremely excited, she texted me to convey her congratulations to president-elect Joe Biden and VP-elect Kamala Harris, saying that she is delighted at the prospect of policy and legislation that would tackle global climate change.

When Super Typhoon Rolly (Goni) hit the country, both president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris sent their sympathies to the Philippines, which we immediately acknowledged, sending them a message of thanks for their kind words and their compassion for Filipinos.

Loren was very dismayed when the US announced its intention to withdraw from the climate pact in 2017, saying that the world has to continue to find ways to solve the climate crisis because “for vulnerable countries like the Philippines, this is a matter of survival.”

The devastating effect of Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco) really showed how vulnerable the Philippines is, with thousands of families that have been displaced in Metro Manila alone. One of those that was hardest hit is Marikina, with half of the city submerged in muddy floodwaters. It was heartbreaking to hear stories about people losing their homes due to the massive flooding, with high school kids sending photos of their rooftops submerged in water and texting their friends that they have lost everything, unable to save anything other than their cellphones and a few clothes.

One thing that we are glad to see is the private sector joining hands with the government to help Filipinos cope with, and recover from, the devastating impact of these natural disasters, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic compounding the situation because of the risk of transmission in evacuation centers.

Those at the forefront of efforts to bring the COVID-19 vaccine into the country are headed by presidential adviser Joey Concepcion together with Ricky Razon of ICTSI, Tessie Sy-Coson of the SM Group, Manny Pangilinan of the PLDT Group, Ramon Ang of San Miguel Corporation, the Aboitiz Group and Michael Tan of the LT Group. Gilbert Santa Maria – the president of Philippine Airlines – also informed me that PAL is prepared to fly the vaccines to the Philippines via cargo equipped with freezer container vans specifically for the Pfizer vaccines. These companies said they are prepared to help by purchasing the vaccines not just for their firms but for fellow Filipinos, especially those belonging to the more vulnerable sectors of society.

Unity is what we need at this time. It is so pathetic to see some Filipino groups here in the United States looking at the pandemic as a way of sowing disunity in our country. This is the one time when people should forget about their personal agenda or political color. Borrowing from what former president George Bush Jr. said after 9/11, “Either you’re with us or against us.”

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Email: babeseyeview@gmail.com

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