The Philippines is said to be leading an initiative with other countries that claim to be highly-prone to the adverse effects of the phenomenon referred to as climate change. The coalition calling themselves the “Vulnerable Twenty” (V20) and who are unashamed to admit they “lack resources to combat the adverse effects of climate change” will attempt to ask for financial assistance from industrialized countries and development institutions. Included in the group are least developed, low-income, and middle-income countries and the group’s agenda is to “formally adopt the V20 Action Plan outlining a concerted response to strengthening resilience and mitigating the debilitating impacts of climate change.”
While the move is commendable because it highlights the world’s over-reliance on fossil fuels, I find the Philippines’ lack of focus on developing its own renewable sources of energy a bit hypocritical. What I’m trying to say is, the Philippines’ use of oil, gas and coal to address its own growing energy demand also contributes to the release of carbon dioxide (C02) in the air, which contributes to the thickening of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which causes what they call the greenhouse effect which some scientist blame for climate change. With over 100 million Filipinos, the country’s use of fossil fuels to light up each additional household can only go up.
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Likewise, the country’s almost non-existent disaster preparedness planning will make the Philippines’ case for asking for financial assistance in combating the adverse effects of climate change very difficult.
A recent report conducted by the Commission on Audit from 2013 exposed that under the leadership of former Department Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, 65.5 percent of the Philippines’ disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) funds were not used for its intended purpose at all:
…the Commission on Audit (COA) 2013 report which came out only this year had noted that only 34.5 percent or P33,071,955.88 of the P76-million fund allocation for the DRRM activities of the DILG was utilized.
Just to highlight some points in that Interaksyon article cited above, Roxas’s department failed to do the following despite the budget allocated for it:
(1) The DILG, through its Bureau of Local Government Development, failed to purchase search and rescue equipment despite a P20-million fund allotment.
(2) Office of Project Development Service (OPDS) failed to conduct training for barangay project development, which has a P600,000.00 budget.
(3) DILG also did not conduct training on the formulation of the Local Climate Change Action Plan (LCCAP) when a whopping P6 million was allotted for this.
Given that the national budget allotted for disaster preparedness to mitigate the impact of regular cyclones that visit the Philippines every year does not get utilized, how can the delegates from the Vulnerable Twenty expect the international community to take us seriously? Even before countries like China, India or the US consider giving compensation, they have to admit they are doing something wrong. The chances of that happening is very small considering developing countries like the Philippines do not prepare enough for the natural disasters that hit them on an annual basis.
The problem with the Philippines is that projects with good intentions are hardly ever implemented. There is a general lack of follow-through on promises to fix things before the next disaster strikes. The former head of DILG Mar Roxas, for example, has been more focused on campaigning for the next Presidential election than preparing for the next disaster. It was the Commission on Audit that concluded that the “DILG failed to implement planned activities due to lack of coordination and monitoring activities”. The findings should actually serve as strong evidence in a case against Roxas for negligence that holds him liable for the resulting deaths due to disasters during his term.
We can already predict that any action plan that will be discussed in the summit with delegates from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank will likely end up on the drawing board even if the Liberal Party to which Roxas belongs to wins the 2016 election. Any expert in disaster management can list a number of “action plans” to lessen the impact of the effects of climate change or the average typhoon that passes through the Philippines but if the people in charge do not bother to implement them, they will be useless.
Besides, Filipinos who live in danger zones are too stubborn to get out of harm’s way even when experience has given them the wisdom to know to move out before the next typhoon arrives.
Such is the sad fate of Filipinos in the Philippines and I don’t think the international community can help us — unless of course they are given the green light to implement the action plan for Filipinos. It is high time professionals take over management of the country’s disaster preparation and response capability.
In life, things are not always what they seem.