The government should heed the mounting call for a national declaration of climate and disaster emergency in the country, a lawmaker said Wednesday.
This is in the light of the massive destruction and misery left by the devastating winds and floods of Typhoons "Rolly" and "Ulysses" which struck the country successively.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said such call has assumed the urgency of “championing climate justice for the poorest of the poor who bear the brunt of the damage brought by these catastrophes” amid the continuing misery of many communities that have overstretched the response capacity of government.
He said these disasters have further aggravated the situation under the obtaining COVID-19 pandemic, which has paralyzed the economy for almost a year now and rendered a great number of people jobless or without a source of income.
Salceda said scientists and environmentalists, as well as world leaders and policymakers have already warned about the spectre of climate-related disasters and emergencies, "and the recent calamities that struck the country, most certainly, will not be the last."
Rolly and Ulysses struck Luzon just one week apart and left 119 casualties as of recent count, and billions of pesos worth of damages in agriculture, industries and personal properties.
Many people in Cagayan Valley continue to suffer in floodwaters to date, Salceda noted.
As the United Nations Senior Global Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction-Climate Change Adaptation, Salceda has already issued the same call in November last year, embodied in House Resolution 535, asking Congress to declare 2020 as Disaster and Climate Emergency Awareness Year.
The resolution, approved and endorsed by the Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change Adaptation, Mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction, urged “continuous public caution on dangers brought about by increasing deadly weather events spawned by climate change before, during and after they strike.”
The declaration aims to highlight the role of local government units in leading transformation and adaptation to climate change and disaster resilience initiatives, along with business communities, individuals and other stakeholders, and employ “a whole-of-government and whole-of-nation policy response to anticipate, halt, reduce, reverse, address and adapt to its impacts, consequences and causes.”
Under HR 535, Salceda also urged fellow legislators to conduct continuous inquiries in aid of legislation and in relation to its oversight functions, on measures being implemented by all concerned national agencies and local government units to address the impacts of disasters and climate change on the fundamental rights of Filipinos.
The lawmaker said the declaration aims to ensure the full integration and convergence of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts through the passage of the
Department of Disaster Resilience bill, now pending in the Senate, as an urgent policy response.
Salceda also said a declaration should enjoin a whole-of-government, whole-of-nation and whole-of-society mobilization on disaster and climate emergency, on behalf of climate-vulnerable communities, LGUs and other stakeholders in the country.
He said the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in its 2016 Paris Agreement, had recognized that climate change adaptation, designed to ensure global responsiveness and societal resilience for a sustainable future, is a global challenge.
“These require urgent policy responses, particularly to assess whether the institutional mechanisms, national government agencies and local government units created by Congress are up to the task of addressing climate and disaster impacts, and whether our national and local budget allocations and expenditures are climate and disaster responsive,” he added.
The Philippines has already suffered tremendous losses, damages and disruptions due to strong typhoons.
Aside from Ulysses, Rolly and Quinta this year, there were Typhoons Reming in 2006 -- the devastation of which was compounded by mudslides and rockslides in Albay due to previous eruptions of Mayon Volcano --
Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009, which devastated Metro Manila, and key regions of Luzon.
He also cited Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 which left over 6,000 casualties, and affected about 16 million Filipinos; Pablo and
Sendong, which ravaged Mindanao, previously regarded as typhoon-free; and the El Niňo phenomenon in 2015-2016 which devastated Mindanao, with billions of pesos damage to agriculture, forest fires, and even triggered the Kidapawan massacre.
Salceda noted the mass casualties inflicted by Typhoons Urduja, Vinta, Rosita, Ompong, Usman, and the Naga landslides in Cebu which all happened between December 2017 and December 2018.
He pointed out that despite the efforts by various national agencies tasked to confront disasters, even up to now, the country is still grappling with institutional issues on climate and disaster