On erratic and extreme weather events Part II

The way people and agencies particularly NDRRMC are behaving in the recent floods is as if it’s the first time this country has experienced it. But it’s not, which is why you wonder what part of the planet do these people think they’re from. We know that we’re right smack at the center of things – typhoons, earthquake, volcanic activity – plus this is an island meaning on all sides of us is water. These are givens. Now add to these the changing global environment. We had Ondoy. The name itself brings up so many negative memories. Now we have a similar flooding. The reaction for instance of NDRRMC “it’s like Water World” is like the reaction of a child playing with water and has tuned out the parent who’s ranting for the child to get the hell out of the rain. Is what’s happening that – of adults who didn’t had chance to play with water in their childhood and so are reliving it now and dragging others into it?

Source: Fano, Jerry Austria. Establishment of Philippine Flood Risk Index by Province Based on Natural and Social Factors.

Location can become a problem. Shall we all then migrate to Planet X? Heck we don’t even have spiffing new ‘copters to start with (every time Army ‘copters hover over the City escorting VVIPs or doing some air exercise I can’t help have my heart in my throat – what if that ancient poor thing suddenly lost its engine in mid air and crashed on us?). In the meantime we all stay and do some housekeeping so that when the big bad wolf comes a-huffing and puffing the house of bricks will stand despite it. But then we’re faced with a new wolf, one that releases water from dams into settlement areas. And then blames the rain. For me the frequent release of water from dams right into settlement areas is a crime in that these dams were not built or planned to be built with extreme rainfall scenario in mind (the consideration ought to have been a matter of course since this is the Philippines not the moon). It is professional neglect in the part of planners and builders of these dams. The owners of these dams should as a damage control measure compensate communities in inundated areas every time they release water. On the other hand, I don’t understand how affected communities can take it sitting down. The other way is for dam owners to review the infrastructure plans and correct structural deficits.

Looking at images in the news, the core message being driven at is bayanihan (Filipino culture of volunteering to help members of the community) – someone extending a hand to another who’s neck deep in water, tricycle drivers (who are speed devils) suddenly the heroes of the hour. In the neighborhoods, yes, bayanihan has its benefits but this is not how a nation is protected. Bayanihan or not, Government and the private sector such as those involved in dam building and management have to put in place a system of mitigation and adaptation.

Financing climate change adaptation is of course something the Government has to seriously think about. There’s this gushing over a proposed People’s Survival Fund which has an assured PHP1B allocation annually, but we need to set up also non-traditional market-based financing methods. Besides, the word ‘survival’ in the proposed Fund is again setting us up into the old mental model of reactive / survival modes of “adapting” wherein we sit back and relax after surviving a disaster hoping that we’d be lucky enough not to experience another. Let’s stop this because this exactly what Juan Tamad is which we don’t want to be called by.

The good Senator Loren Legarda says “the challenge is in implementing the (Climate Change Action Plan) at the grassroots level (personally I’m not keen to use ‘grassroots’ because it conjures up an image of cows eating at the grass and if the grass are the poor communities well shoo off the cows so ‘grassroots’ is not a friendly label).” Metro Manila in the recent flooding is lucky that the Office of the NDRRMC is right in the metro, but its direct involvement in the emergency begs the question, so where are the LDRRMCs/BDCs of the flooded barangays? Rowing their boats. If Metro Manila barangays – physically very near to the locus of power (financial and decisions) and technology – can’t model climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, there’s bleak hope for barangays in Basilan or Batanes.

She also challenged the President to lead the way toward CCA. This re-echoes the comments made after the SONA 2012: the President is all the 80M Filipinos or all of the Government. Our relationship with him is that the President is not our landowner or we his tenants. The fact that the CCA Strategy and Action Plan are signed by two Presidents – GMA and Aquino respectively – tells us that they each support CCA and that CCA is to be done regardless of who is President. In an organization, you don’t expect the CEO to do the work of his or her manager or the janitor. The organization functions and delivers on its promise because everybody in the structure is doing his or her part. The fact that the policy has been signed says a lot about where Presidential support lies. Figuring out how to move on after that is the job of people down the hierarchy. So when NDRRMC says “it’s like Water World,” it is largely due to its own making (or inaction).

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