The scars left by Yolanda
The Philippines became the center of global attention when Yolanda, the strongest typhoon in the history of our planet to make a landfall (unbelievably, not once but six times), chose our country as its first destination. The magnitude of the destruction and loss of lives it left in its wake could not as yet be fully ascertained as communication lines and power had been cut off in 31 provinces in Central Visayas, Palawan and Bicol region. Our main source of continuing reporting is the social media.
Rains, storm surges and strong winds brought misery to residents and battered coastal towns in Tacloban, Leyte, Iloilo, Capiz, and Coron, among others. According to the mayor of Coron, as relayed by our son, Dino, who was stranded there, “there are 11,000 evacuees in the town alone, 400 tourists stranded, 80 percent to 90 percent of boats are down, and all fish pens and farms are gone. Estimated time to restore electricity and smart connections is three to six weeks. Cebu Pacific estimates flights to start on Nov. 15 due to the damage to the airport and towers. On the bright side, the pier is functioning now and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines is sending someone to oversee repairs for the airport this morning.”
Earthquake-hit areas like Bohol and Cebu were not spared. Cebu Daily News (Nov. 10) reported heavily affected areas as “Bogo City and towns of Medellin, San Remigio, Daanbantayan on the mainland, and the three towns of Bantayan island—Sta. Fe., Bantayan and Madridejos.”
We extend our deepest sympathy to the families of the victims, especially those who perished, remain unaccounted for, injured and who lost their homes and properties.
After Yolanda entered the Philippine area of responsibility, President Benigno Aquino III exhorted the public to be ready. He assured us that supplies and government agencies were on stand-by for any contingency. As news started filtering in, we soon realized that the unforgiving Yolanda would forever leave deep scars in the minds and hearts of Filipinos and the rest of the world for the tragic deaths and tremendous devastation in the landscape.
With the painful memories, we hope that finally the much-needed local, national and international unity and collective action to shift towards a participatory path to a low-carbon future will be effected. With our strong laws and our National Climate Change Action Plan, we cannot afford any delay in the no-nonsense institutionalization of the pillars for sustainability, which include food security and sustainable energy. Imagine if the government had sooner facilitated the implementation of the Renewable Energy Law of 2008, communities would now be relying on their own sources of solar, community-based water systems and wind energy, instead of endlessly depending upon the current centralized energy system to be functional.
The Climate Change Commission led by the President should finally unleash its tremendous powers and responsibilities and truly be the sole policy-making body of the government tasked to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the programs and action plans of the government relating to climate change, under RA 9729, the Climate Change Act, as amended. Nothing less than a determined and collective action to plan for our highly uncertain future should be the order of the day. Local government units (LGUs) and government agencies must shape up and mainstream disaster risk reduction and management and climate change in all of the policies, programs and projects.
As one of his countless enduring legacies, the late secretary Jesse Robredo issued Department of Interior and Local Government Memo Circular 2012-35 dated Feb. 21, 2012, titled “Guidelines In Ensuring Public Safety During Man-Made And Natural Disasters,” a portion of which reads:
“Local chief executives must see to it that training and orientation on the possible natural hazards, vulnerabilities, and climate change risks as well as knowledge management activities on disaster risk reduction and management ore organized and conducted at the local level by the provincial, city and municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMOs) and Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils (BDRRMCS), as the case may be.” Further it provides that “Failure to comply with these Guidelines by the responsible government official/s shall be ground for the filing of the appropriate charges against them.”
Citizens can very well take the lead, pressure public officials, if necessary, if the LGUs are not performing their mandates.
Once again, a natural disaster unraveled and unmasked the long journey ahead for our policymakers and citizens to connect the dots linking climate change, our dangerous carbon-emitting lifestyle and the urgent response that must be made by each one.
Let us now seriously address our dependency on fossil fuels and the problem of destruction and contamination of our natural systems. It is high time that the integrity of our ecosystems merit top-notch prioritization. Dr. John Robinson, Wildlife Conservation Society Executive Vice President for Conservation and Science, posits the view, and I agree, that “maintaining the integrity of the world’s ecosystems will be the most important means of safeguarding the natural world and our own future (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130916131006.htm).”
On a personal note, our family and I are most grateful to Good Samaritans who helped assuaged our fears and anxieties about our son, Dino, who experienced the brunt of Yolanda in Coron. Maraming salamat/Daghang salamat Ipat Luna, Al of Coron Ecotours, Tony Oposa, former Puerto Princesa mayor Ed Hagedorn, Gov. Jose Alvarez and his staff, for the much-appreciated assistance.
Let us continue to help one another. Mabuhay!