By Herminia S. Jacinto
RECENT events in the country and elsewhere in the world have highlighted the serious problems brought about by climate change. Typhoons and floods are events that have become ordinary happenings in the Philippines. But of late, we have had more serious ones such as storm surges, heavy flooding and landslides, caused by nonstop strong rains. Earthquakes have come more frequently than before, and it looks like the dormant volcanoes have suddenly awakened. The latest was the mild eruption of Mount Bulusan in Sorsogon, which had been inactive for a long time. Pagasa has declared that the rainy season has officially started, and true to form, the " announcement" came with thunderstorms and rains almost everyday.
There is no way by which these events can be stopped or controlled. So, all that can be done is to reduce the impact of these disasters if and when they happen. All over the world, governments and the private sector are collaborating to mitigate the negative results of these disasters. Measures to protect property, people and the environment are the subject of various discussions in conferences and meetings among experts on the subject.
What are we doing in the Philippines? It will be good for the public to know that protection is being thought of and steps are being taken to protect them from these catastrophes or disasters. Both the government and the private sector have to join forces to have a scientific and concerted approach to the problems brought about by climate change.
The Climate Change Commission, which was created under the Office of the President, is the sole policy making body tasked to coordinate, monitor, and evaluate the programs and action plans of the government relating to climate change pursuant to the provisions of the Philippine Climate Change Act (RA 9729), also known as the "Climate Change Act of 2009." The President of the Philippines is the chairman of the commission with three commissioners assisting him. It is the local government units which are the frontline agencies in the implementation of the action plans as determined by the commission. The other government agencies with which the commission has to coordinate and work closely with are the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). We are signatories to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, an international document adopted by the United Nations member states at the world conference held in Sendai Japan in March 2015. The Sendai Framework aims to achieve the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives and in the economic, physical, social, cultural, and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries over the next 15 years.
The private sector has established Arise-Philippines, the Local Network of Arise (the private sector alliance for disaster-resilient societies). The partnership between SM Prime Holdings and UNDRR paved the way for the creation of Arise-Philippines. To date, the network has 88 private sector organizations as members that share the vision of a resilient, prosperous future where fewer lives are lost to disasters, capital assets, and investments are risk informed, and infrastructure is resilient to natural and man-made hazards. Arise-Philippines is co-chaired by Hans Sy, chairman of the executive committee of SM Prime Holdings and (ret.) vice admiral Alexander P. Pama, consultant for disaster risk resilience.