El Niño and the candidates
(The Freeman) - March 16, 2016 - 10:00am

Pagasa has warned the country of "intense heat" in the next few months. Actually, an unusually hot atmosphere has plagued the archipelago for months now starting in the middle part of last year. Rice fields have dried up and water sources threatened. In some urban centers water rationing is resorted to as supply dwindles. Water! Affected communities wail. What are we to do?

Some local governments have asked for cloud seeding. But this is expensive and has minimal effects. Some of them have declared a state of emergency to avail of funds for assistance to farmers, but funds are limited, so assistance is limited, too. The likely result: food shortage and hunger especially for rural folks who depend on farming for subsistence.

A severe hot spell is of course a setback to the country's food security program. More rice importation would be needed, which means more dollar outflow and a reduced foreign standby fund. Dry spell would also adversely affect our agricultural exports because production of such items as coconut oil, corn oil, banana, coffee, mango, and others would be delimited. Reduced farm productivity of course reduces foreign exchange earning thus reducing too our gross domestic product (GDP). Unemployment would increase and this requires more spending for welfare-related programs such as the 4Ps. Socio-economic development therefore gets a down-turn.

El Niño has been a recurring phenomenon in this archipelago and has caused untold sufferings to the people especially the low and middle income earners.

But what do our presidential aspirants have to say about this problem? Has any of them proposed on action plan to minimize the negative effects of such aberrant climate happening? Sadly, not one of them has.

Listen to what often comes out of their mouths. Are these not promises and more promises? One of them, for instance, has sounded like a broken record as he repeatedly intones his mantra of the daang matuwid; another always gushes out her vision of a government with a heart, "may puso", which guarantees she says of provision for basic needs for everyone; another would do away with tax liability for low-income earners and pour more cash assistance to the very poor and the underserved; and add to this is the candidate who flexes his muscle towards criminal elements giving them only a few months of exit period after he gets elected.

Words - empty words - which when the polls hoopla dies down are seldom remembered. In the meantime, the sun is mercilessly scorching the countryside and city-side. Conflagration strikes and the homeless proliferate. Forest fires break out and greeneries are reduced to ashes. In the midst of all these the candidates are all smiles, shaking hands, kissing babies, and dishing out assurances of lemonade days.          

If given the mandate, how would one of them confront the problem of climate change, the root cause of drought, flood, and super typhoons? In Paris, France, last year we signed a commitment to help reduce carbon emission. But have we not just given a go-signal to the operation of coal-fuel power plants? We have tolerated large-scale mining which destroys forested mountains and hills and mutilates our rural landscapes. We have allowed smoke-belching vehicles to proliferate and pollute the atmosphere. Will the new occupant of Malacañang remain passive to this rampant rape of our environment?

Yolanda has taught us a lesson. Yet we refuse to learn. That lesson ought to have awakened us to take radical steps to offset the impact of climate change. We should have gone upbeat on renewal energy program. We should have set up more solar farms and windmill corridors. We should have built more hydroelectric plants, etc. But have we?

The sum is beating on us mercilessly. May it also beat on our would-be presidents towards realization that what we do to mitigate the impacts of climate change will make or break this country.


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