‘PH disaster rehab, preparedness plans ignore ecosystems’

CEBU CITY (MindaNews/06 August) – The country’s response to disasters like super typhoon Yolanda and its strategies for disaster preparedness have not been linked to ecosystem degradation and grassroots participation, an official said Wednesday.

Commissioner Naderev Saño of the National Climate Change Commission said climate change has given “an opportunity to pursue our country’s future”.

For example, the damage caused by Yolanda gave an opportunity to restore an area based on a new model, Saño told participants to a workshop on climate change adaptation organized by the Ecosystem Alliance Philippines.

But the response had focused only on housing and other services and did not factor in the environment or ecosystem, he added.

Aside from the absence of an ecosystem-based approach, grassroots participation in planning had also been neglected, he said.

Ecological deficit

Saño said the Philippines has experienced an “ecological deficit since the 1960s”.

He cited the country’s declining fish stocks, coral degradation and continuing loss of forest cover.

“Less than one percent of our corals are in excellent condition, and less than three percent of primary forests are left,” he said.

Saño attributed the degradation of corals to the rise in the earth’s temperature, which, he said, has increased by 0.85 degrees Celsius from the 1860s to 2012.

He said that in the coming decades global temperature is seen to rise by 2-6 degrees Celsius if the current rates of carbon emissions continue.

“We have breached 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In the last 800,000 years we had not reached 300 ppm. It can reach 900 ppm by 2100 if industrialization not addressed,” he said.

“If some species cannot adapt to this change, whole ecosystems are in danger,” he warned.

The official said the corals in El Nido, Palawan did not recover from the 1998 El Nino but Tubbataha Reef wasn’t affected. “But it doesn’t mean it (Tubbataha) can resist a two-degree rise in temperature.”

He also lamented that the National Greening Program has been marred by allegations of corruption aside from being biased to the planting of exotic species.

Citing his objection to the building of a coal-fired power plant in Palawan, Saño said “you have to fight your own government to save the environment”.

‘Happiness’ factor

“We need to balance development with the need to conserve our environment,” he said, adding “happiness” should also be considered.

“Saan ka masaya (What makes you happy)? Developments like land use conversion, tall buildings and movement of farmers to the industrial sector are not the thing that bring happiness.”

“Will we still have enough food and water, peace, security and wellbeing?”

He emphasized however that an ecosystem-based adaptation strategy can only be possible “if we solve basic problems like poverty”.

“We have been unable to solve poverty even without major disasters, how much more with disasters?” he said.

Saño also noted that disaster preparedness in the Philippines has focused much on acquiring rescue equipment and similar measures.

He said that in contrast no funds have been poured into the formulation of comprehensive land use plans. He cited a land use plan of a landlocked municipality that included prescriptions for a coastal area.

“This shows that some of our CLUPs were just cut and pasted,” he said. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)