"We must mobilize all our human, technical, and financial resources."
The striking message of this year’s celebration of World Environment Day is how the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) highlighted how human activities have invaded and shrunk the natural habitat of animals creating conditions ideal for cross-species infections and resulting in the global pandemic.
UNEP cited a PubMed published study, titled, “Nature and COVID-19: The pandemic, the environment, and the way ahead” which said, “The virus may have emerged from wildlife reservoirs linked to environmental disruption, was transmitted to humans via the wildlife trade, and its spread was facilitated by economic globalization.” The United States government has sent experts to Wuhan where the first outbreak of COVID-19 was detected to find evidence but are not getting the cooperation of a typically untransparent Chinese government.
“The essential links between human health and well-being, biodiversity, and climate change could inspire a new generation of innovators to provide green solutions to enable humans to live in a healthy balance with nature leading to a long-term resilient future,” the study said.
Rebuilding from this crisis toward a resilient future is the common vision of scientists, civil society, government, and the private sector panelists in the latest virtual roundtable discussion of Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi) in partnership with the Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship (PBEST). ADRi Trustee and PBEST Convenor Dr. Carlos Primo “CP” David set the tone by lamenting on the downplaying of the extreme threats of climate issues because of the “slow onset nature of the problem” which only gets public attention when disasters strike, homes and infrastructure are destroyed, and scores are injured or killed. Then it’s back to the destructive behavior that brought the planet to what scientists call a global climate tipping point of 1.5-degree Centigrade increase in global temperature that will trigger an irreversible chain of devastation and existential catastrophes with all of humanity as victims.
But as Dr. David raised this alarm, there is still a narrow 30-year window wherein he said, “It is our generation that is starting to occupy the leadership roles of society. It is up to us then to recognize this threat and seriously address the climate crisis.”
One of the best models of pro-active interventions are the programs of the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) and its membership of top business groups in the Philippines. Its president Mr. Rene “Butch” Meily reminded about how rising temperatures have even worsened the frequency and intensity of typhoons hitting the country that last year, displaced over 4.4 million people. PDRF has responded quickly to every major disaster since it was first organized after typhoon Ondoy which devastated Metro-Manila and surrounding areas in a deluge never before seen in a lifetime.
One of PDRF’s co-chairmen and Ayala Corp. Chairman, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, in an appeal to the country’s industry leaders during a related climate summit, said, “Now, more than ever, everyone must play a role in building resilience and mitigating risks as more devastating calamities arise in the future. I think we should be contributors of resilience and help minimize the contributions we make in worsening the situation.”
A strategically important program of PDRF is the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) which is the first private sector-led national operations center in the Asia-Pacific Region. Operating in the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga, the center uses advanced communication software and technology to monitor climate-related and natural hazards disaster from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and pandemics. The system continues to provide fast alerts, updates and supports the coordination of relief and disaster response efforts.
One of PDRF’s members Globe Telecom has been supporting government rescue operations with its highly mobile emergency equipment and technical teams such as their Cell Site on Wheels (COW) and Tower on Wheels (TOW) capable of 1,000 simultaneous calls within a 3-5 kilometer radius. Globe also deploys their Cellular-on-a-Light-Truck (COLT), Network-in-a-Box (NIB), and Mobile Command Center (MCC) to disaster relief operations.
Globe Telecom Chief Risk Officer Rizza Maniego-Eala in a posted statement said, “Our continued investments in risk management systems have assured that our network will be up and running when needed the most.”
In his statement, Stratbase ADRi president Prof. Dindo Manhit said, “Initiatives need to put emphasis on advancing the incorporation of circular business and economic models, investments in “green” and sustainable urban designs, and the incorporation of digital technologies into services and infrastructure developments.”
It is a daunting feeling to realize that we must all, without exception, take the responsibility and act positively to save our planet from becoming uninhabitable. As we have learned to work together and use digital technologies to cope with and fight this pandemic, we must mobilize all our human, technical, and financial resources to rebalance our environment and evolve into a symbiotic planetary ecosystem.