Infrastructure Development, Climate Change Adaptation & Disaster Preparedness

20141003 Bohol Tagbilaran Infrastructure Development, Climate Change Adaptation &  Disaster Preparedness

Holy Name University & University of Bohol
Tagbilaran City, Bohol
3 October 2014

Fr. Francisco Estepa, SVD, President of the Holy Name University, Atty. Nuevas Montes, Acting President of the University of Bohol, my dear students of the Holy Name University and of the University of Bohol, parents, teachers, administrators, employees, friends and other esteemed guests, ladies and gentlemen:
A pleasant afternoon to all of you!

Mga kahigalaan dinhi sa Tagbilaran City, maayong hapon kaninyong tanan!

It is truly my honor and privilege to address our students of Holy Name University and University of Bohol, and the Boholano youth, on the interrelated issues of climate change adaptation, disaster preparedness and infrastructure development. I simply cannot let this very important opportunity pass considering the impact of these issues on our students and our youth.

No one will perhaps argue with the premise that climate change is now upon us, the harmful effects of which we, as organic parts of the world’s ecosystem, are tangibly experiencing. Let us not even begin to talk about the causes, because that would take too much of our limited time. Regardless of the real cause, the fact remains that the negative effects of this climate change have turned out to be of devastating proportions and, worse, are threatening our very survival and continued existence.

The Philippines may not be a major contributor to the global carbon dioxide emissions, but unfortunately we still are not spared from the natural phenomenon of climate change. In fact, the Philippines is considered to be in the Top 5 disaster-hit countries in the world. Yes, my dear students, we may not make it to the elite ranks of the FIBA or even the Asian Games, but when it comes to disasters, we are definitely topnotchers!

According to statistics, dumarami na ang bagyo na dumarating sa ating bansa. In fact, the strongest ones come during the last three “Ber” months or from October to December of the year. And of the deadliest and most destructive typhoons ever recorded in recent history, about half of them have happened in the months of November and December. Typhoons Ike (1984), Reming (2006), Uring (1991) and Yolanda (2013) all happened in November; Sendong (2011) and Pablo (2012) happened in the month of December.

But if you may have noticed, this climate change phenomenon has grimly shaken our traditional notion of our rains and typhoons, in relation to our traditional view about our degree of preparedness. Now, we should not just be concerned with a storm’s wind strength and gustiness alone; we should be wary of stronger “precipitation delivery”, or a larger amount of rainfall concentrated over a short period of time. Ngayon, lumakas na ang binubuhos na tubig ng ating mga ulan at bagyo; sa ilang oras o minuto lamang, kaya na nitong magdulot ng matinding baha sa ating komunidad.

Moreover, we should now be concerned with possibility of “storm surges”, as our Yolanda experience last year has taught us. Although similar as to destructive potential, a storm surge is different from a “tsunami” in that it is not triggered by an earthquake, but by a storm or typhoon as it rips through the sea and makes way for the coastline.

At bagyo pa lamang yan, mga mahal kong mga mag-aaral! Earthquakes are another, which are rather more unpredictable, considering even the most advanced technology. Let us consider 2012 data from Dr. Renato Solidum of the PHIVOLCS. Sabi niya, in the Philippines, there are 200 earthquakes felt per year, and there had been 90 destructive earthquakes and 40 tsunamis that had occurred over the past 400 years. Dr. Solidum added that a destructive earthquake occurs every 5 years, while a destructive tsunami happens every 10 years.

At kailan naman daw ang susunod na malakas at mapanirang earthquake? Well, according to Dr. Solidum, we all can expect it to come anytime within 400 years! Talk about unpredictability!

We have no choice! We can blame everything on our country’s location on our planet. We are in the western portion of the Pacific Ocean, which is considered as a very potent storm engine. Not only that, we are also located in the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire”, which is a very active seismic belt. 90% lang naman ng mga lindol sa buong mundo ay nangyayari sa Ring of Fire.

Napakaswerte naman talaga ng Pilipinas!

The Bohol province is no exception. According to the PHIVOLCS, the northern part of Bohol is prone to liquefaction, or cracking due to earthquake. Worse, the entire perimeter of the Bohol coastline is susceptible to tsunamis.

Also, PHIVOLCS has learned after studying the great Bohol earthquake in October 2013 that the earthquake was not caused by the traditional earthquake generator in Bohol province, or the “East Bohol Fault”. Rather, it was caused by a previously unmapped fault, which was found in Bgy. Anonang, Inabanga, Bohol. So, aside from the “East Bohol Fault”, we now have another one, the “North Bohol Fault”.

Secondly, we learned that part of Bohol, including our very own hometown of Tagbilaran City, has shifted and “moved” 55 centimeter towards Cebu. Although the PHIVOLCS said that this is no cause for alarm, to the politicians, this CAN be a true cause for alarm. This means that now, all of you could be claimed by the provincial government of Cebu as its own citizens! So thanks to the earthquake, you’re now officially “Cebuanos”!

Huwag kayong mag-alala, kami sa Maynila ay meron din naman kaming Marikina Valley Fault! According to the 2004 joint study of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), PHIVOLCS and MMDA, an Intensity 7 earthquake triggered by the Marikina Valley Fault could spell unspeakable disaster and tragedy for the Metro Manila area.
Metro Manila is also not spared from destructive rains and typhoons. Just last week, Metro Manila felt the wrath of tropical storm “Mario”, which submerged several areas in the metro. And just the other night, the streets of Metro Manila once again got paralyzed by flash floods caused by just an hour-long continuous heavy rains!

Worse, experts have theorized that these extreme weather events we are now experiencing is the “NEW NORMAL”!

‘Ika nga ng ating Pambansang Kamao na si Cong. Manny Pacquiao: “NOW YOU KNOW!”

Incidentally, Cong. Manny Pacquiao is now an icon of disaster preparedness and awareness in Asia, as the ambassador of the “Safe Steps” program! His infomercials are presently shown in TV screens not only in the Philippines but all across Asia, and translated in 8 languages! Ibang level na talaga si Cong. Pacquiao!

Now, all these discussions lead us to the related issues of adaptation, preparedness and resiliency. We cannot do anything about our climate, our weather events—let alone our geographical location on the world map! However, it is within our ability and functional competence to learn how to adapt and survive as a human community. This is precisely what sets us apart from other species, and what has kept us here on this planet millennium after millennium, in the tradition of the evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin: “the survival of the fittest.”

Precisely, it is because of our collective realization that we are faced with higher and more dangerous environmental risks and hazards that our government has also begun to evolve its policy directions. For example, in 2009, Congress enacted the law on Climate Change, a policy concept probably unheard of in the Philippines prior to Al Gore’s award-winning documentary “Inconvenient Truth” in 2006. Dati, hindi naman natin naririnig ang term na “climate change”!

Then, in 2010, our Congress revisited our law on disaster management by enacting the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Law. Sigurado madalas ninyo nang naririnig at nababasa ang salita at acronym na ito! Talagang marami na ang mga sakuna at kalamidad ngayon sa ating bansa!

I highly suggest though that you memorize these and get the words of the term and the letters of the acronym correctly, because these are not just trivial and merely academic matters. These are very important concepts, impacting on our lives as citizens, as families, communities, and as a nation. More importantly, these are useful and practical in that they embody a substantial paradigm shift in our traditional notions of our disaster preparedness.

Now, we have to reorient our entire way of life. Now, we cannot afford to just wait for disaster to strike until we act and push the emergency button. Hindi na puwedeng hihintayin pa muna natin ang sakuna bago tayo kumilos.

Now, we have to address even the RISKS of disasters. And in doing this, we have to address our VULNERABILITIES. This means that we have to give as much, if not more, focus on our PRE-disaster preparations, as we do on our POST-disaster response. This DRRM has already become the world standard when it comes to disaster management since 2005, in the wake of the catastrophic tsunami in the Indian Ocean in December 2004.

Now, we have to be aware of practically EVERYTHING—all aspects of our lives that unwittingly make us vulnerably exposed to environmental and man-made hazards. We have to consider our geographical location, the elevation of our house as well as of our school, the strength of the structure of our home and of the places we frequent, the topography of our community, our proximity to the coastline, to the earthquake faults, etc., etc.!

Napakarami na ng dapat nating isipin at alalahanin! Sasabihin ninyo: “Aba, estudyante pa lamang kami. Napakarami pa naming inaaral na mga konsepto, bokabularyo, mga formula, at iba pa! Hirap na hirap na nga kami, tapos, kailangan pa naming isipin ang mga bagay na ito?!”

Ito ang sagot ko sa inyo: KAILANGAN NA KAILANGAN NATING GAWIN ITO! Pasensya na lamang tayo!

As students, you are as much an integral part of our community-building and nation-building, as we adults and “THUNDERS” are! And being presently under the auspices of our educational institutions, you are in a very good position to make sense of these things and be equipped with the information to address them! Then, in your own families, barangays and communities, you can help spread the word and advocate for the strengthening, safety and survival of your respective families and communities.

With the aid of technology, internet and social media, these small efforts of ours can work wonders in our own families and communities, which can spell the difference between our suffering and our survival! So take the best advantage of your inseparable attachment to your gadgets, and your addiction to the internet and social media, and make the most out of the available information, and channel them to our community capacity-building and strengthening efforts!

For example, now, you can stay updated of the latest weather forecasts, news and other important information by accessing the PAGASA, PHIVOLCS, Project NOAH, NDRRMC and other very informative websites, whether these websites be government-sponsored or private, or whether local or international.

For starters, the students and the school administrators can visit the PHIVOLCS website and answer the “How Safe Is My House” test, which is a joint project of our DOST-PHIVOLCS and the Japan Government. Through this, we shall be able to know if our homes and schools get all the 12 points to be considered safe and structurally sound, or less than 12 points as to require strengthening or as to be “disturbing”. And knowing that Japan has lent its assistance in the development of this test, we are definitely assured of credibility and reliability of the test!

For students and school administrators, the strengthening and retrofitting of our homes and schools for safety and resiliency should be our topmost priority. On the one hand, our homes are where we take shelter and rest our heads for practically half of our typical day. Moreover, these are invaluable legacy and heirloom of parents and ascendants to their children and descendants.

On the other hand, our schools serve as “second-homes” to 23.5 million students in our country—or almost one-fourth (1/4th) of our total population—for the other half of the day. Moreover, our schools, more often than not, are transformed into evacuation centers for the immediate community in case of disasters. So, we have to strengthen them to protect our students all over the country, as well as the locals who take refuge in them in case of disasters.

Fortunately, our Government is putting money where its mouth is. Government now is committed to allocating funding right at this time of our nation’s history when we are advocating these policy shifts in disaster-preparedness and management. Napakalaki po ng pondo na nilalaan ng ating gobyerno sa disaster risk reduction and management natin. It is in the billions of the pesos! And all of these funds are aligned with our new DRRM policy. Thus, these funds are poised for our country’s holistic efforts to address both POST-DISASTER and, more importantly, PRE-DISASTER preparations and other related activities as well.

As conscientious, concerned, and well-meaning students, advocates, and citizens, assisted by parents and “second-parents”, in the persons of teachers and school administrators, we should be very proactive, efficient and responsive in this whole exercise, and should aim to take the lead in our respective communities. And in doing this, let us also be on-guard and vigilant over the proper and judicious handling, allocation and utilization of these public funds by our government officials. Don’t stop making “kulit” and making “kalampag” the government, national and local, for the needed attention and technical and financial assistance on this very urgent matter!
So again, to recapitulate, let us all be aware of the new paradigm of disaster management, not only espoused by our country, but by the whole world as well. Instead of just acting only if and when disaster strikes, we have to AVERT DISASTER altogether. In order to do so, we have to LESSEN THE RISK, and to do this, we have to ADDRESS OUR VULNERABILITIES. Instilling and inculturating this new paradigm into our system, into our own families and communities, is a huge step towards strengthening and building resiliency in order to increase our chances of survival and continued existence on this planet! And even as mere students and young as you all are, you are indispensable participants in these efforts in achieving this ideal for our community and for our nation.

So, in closing, let me say that I look forward to more enriching and thought-provoking discussions with our studentry regarding disaster risk reduction and management! Although, of course, we do not want to look forward to more occurrences of these environmental hazards and disasters! It is truly an honor and privilege for me to be here with you today!

May God help the Philippines and the Filipino people!

Mabuhay ang Holy Name University at ang University of Bohol, at ang ating mga mag-aaral ng Bohol!

Uswag Bohol!

Daghang salamat kaninyong tanan, hinigugma kong mga Boholanos!

Maraming, maraming salamat po!

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