Climate change imposes increasingly difficult challenges every year. We suffer stronger and more frequent typhoons, cyclones, tsunamis, long dry spells, single-digit temperatures in mountainous regions, among others. The geographical region of the Philippines renders the country especially vulnerable to storms, cyclones, earthquakes and volcanic activity. These two non-modifiable factors emphasize our government’s readiness, adaptability, and resilience to calamities.
Quezon was one of the affected provinces during the onslaught of Typhoon Nina last December. Thirty percent of the coconut trees—approximately 350,000 trees—in four municipalities in Quezon, were damaged. To this day, there is no response from the government. No efforts were made to facilitate the replanting of trees which are a source of livelihood for the locals. What saddens me is that this should not be a problem. The funds are there—it is the implementation of the programs and the structure of protocols that are flawed.
In a statement to the Manila Standard, Former President Ramos expressed his disappointment on the lack of action by this administration on other issues such as poverty, climate change, terrorism, and provision of basic services. I am of the same view.
I reiterate my call to the government to shift its focus on other equally important issues such as the current ineffective response to calamities and disasters. Given the unpredictability of when calamities will strike, and with only a guesstimated intensity, the government must enhance and strengthen its preparedness strategies. The government must also have a realistic, feasible and immediately implementable post-calamity assistance program. During a meeting with the representatives from different government agencies post-Nina, I observed bureaucratic red tape which result in delays. Bureaucratic red tape is unacceptable in an emergency situation. I also believe that the response protocols and program implementation are inadequate and non-responsive.
Our LGUs should expect full cooperation from government agencies such as the DPWH and DSWD to act and respond days before any typhoon or calamity strikes. Before Camarines Sur was battered by typhoon Nina, the LGU of Quezon Province has coordinated already with the DSWD in ensuring the adequacy of supplies in anticipation of flooding and evacuation. Other LGUs and government agencies should follow this example.
Aside from that, post-calamity rehabilitation in infrastructure, agriculture, and community livelihood should also be implemented as soon as possible to facilitate immediate resumption of the people to their normal lives.
Heads of government agencies could learn from Japan. Japan is equally prone to typhoons and earthquakes as it lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire but it has set the standard and became the leader in disaster preparedness and urban resilience. Just last year, the story of a sinkhole getting fixed in Japan within 48 hours was all over the news. We should aim to be at par with such efficiency.
We are close to summer, the hottest months. Time is of the essence here. With urgency, we should investigate the government agencies concerned to determine if their policies permit the release of necessary assistance to prepare, protect and rehabilitate any part of country after a natural calamity.