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Senators remind gov’t to prepare for disasters due to climate change


07:35 PM April 2nd, 2012

By: Cathy Yamsuan, April 2nd, 2012 07:35 PM

MANILA, Philippines—As if the country’s power woes are not enough, senators on Monday  warned that the government must also start gearing for disasters, including coastal floods due to climate change and strong earthquakes, that experts say may occur any time.

Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano pointed to a recent study by the Asian Development Bank warning of the Philippines’ rising sea levels.

“A recent study of the ADB … identifies the Philippines as (among) the world’s most vulnerable … to climate change. The country ranks fifth globally in terms of the number of people to be affected by sea level rise,” he said.

The ADB report titled “Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific” acknowledged that sea level rise is already seriously threatening communities with coastal flooding with most of them found in Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, became a steady entry in global news recently after floods inundated it for several weeks. The incident had a severe effect on its tourism and economy.

Cayetano said his concern stems from the “absence or seeming lack of preparation” on the part of the government “for climate change related calamities in areas where increases in sea levels pose immediate threats to communities.”

The Philippine archipelago is lined with coastal communities that depend on fishing for livelihood.

As early as 10 years ago, climate experts have already warned that the melting polar ice could cause sea levels to rise by at least one meter.

Philippine coastal communities could be displaced and their residents left without livelihood, they also cautioned.

“Tropical cyclones and flashfloods that killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Mindanao and the Visayas last year and previous calamities caused by storms ‘Ondoy’ and ‘Pepeng’ should serve as crucial lessons for the government to learn from,” the senator said.

“Efforts must be made to identify areas that are at serious risks on account of rise in sea level so adequate planning and preparations can be made,” he said.

The ADB report recommended that governments must invest heavily on improving urban infrastructure resilient to harsh calamities and basic services to people in times of these disasters such as health, water and sanitation and education for displaced schoolchildren.

“We can no longer afford to simply take risks when flashfloods and typhoons hit any part of our country. Our poor people are constantly helpless due to lack of government programs and strategies for their timely safe evacuation to safer places,” said Cayetano.

Meanwhile, Sen. Loren Legarda said government officials must also gear for a strong earthquake that could strike in Luzon anytime.

Legarda, chair of the Senate climate change committee, said numerous warnings have already been aired about how the Marikina fault that runs from the Sierra Madre mountain range in eastern Luzon to Laguna province is “ripe” for another movement.

She noted that experts have warned that structures, especially those in the Metro Manila, may not be strong enough to withstand the strength of a possible 7.0-magnitude earthquake.

“Even the integrity of this Senate building is suspect. What if a tsunami from Manila Bay hits because of an earthquake,” she asked in a recent huddle with reporters.

Cayetano noted that donations and relief operations are short-term programs and do not address the main issues for mitigating the impact of climate change in the Philippines.

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