If there is a painful lesson that the Philippines should learn from Typhoon Yolanda, it is the need for voters to be wiser in choosing the people they put in public office, and for politicians, down to the barangay level, to be more aware of the issue of climate change.
This is not to say that Congressmen and Senators should be “experts” in climate change (although that will greatly help). Rather, legislators should know how to protect their constituents and the Republic from the adverse effects of climate change, and more importantly, not think that there will not be another Yolanda, Ondoy, Pablo, among other deadly storms.
Weather experts even say that Yolanda won’t be the last that will hit the Philippines, and that is a terrifying thought. What is more terrifying, however, is for the country’s politicians to ignore the need for them to start thinking proactively in crafting legislation and government programs that will help the country as a whole deal with the effects of deadly storms.
And dealing with storms does not only mean distributing relief packages.
Among the suggestions of The Manila Times of climate change-related legislation that can be enacted are a land-use plan that will identify areas vulnerable to disasters, that should be declared unfit for human habitation; rehabilitation and protection of green zones that can mitigate the effects of storms, like forests and mangrove areas; penalizing real estate companies or commercial firms that aggravate an area or community’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change; and setting the required action that all local officials should take when there is a storm warning, like making forced evacuations and readying all types of relief aid at least 24 hours before a storm makes landfall.
More importantly, Congress should pass a law meting out capital punishment for officials who steal or embezzle during times of calamities, regardless of the amount stolen or pocketed.
For voters, they should elect people who have a pro-active thinking on how to deal with climate change.
More importantly, voters should cast aside politicians who make their campaign trails a local version of “Show Time,” or those who have nothing but establishing basketball courts and waiting sheds, and conducting longganisa-making seminars as their major accomplishments. And let us banish all politicians who lined their pockets from the pork barrel or public funds.
While the national government and local officials can claim that Yolanda was just a too powerful a storm, the truth is a lot of proactive action could have been taken to mitigate the effects of the super typhoon.
Forcing residents to go to evacuation centers ahead of the storm, pre-packing relief goods, and getting the armed forces ready at 24 to 48 hours before Yolanda made landfall could have been done by the national government and local officials.
There still would be casualties even if all of those measures were done, but the situation would not be as bad as it is now, with many typhoon-hit areas still looking like wastelands with badly neglected people.
Just see the example of Albay, whose governor Joey Salceda has put into place pro-active measures to deal with disasters like storms and even the eruption of Mayon Volcano. Salceda is also now the chairman of a United Nations body that has up to $100 billion for international climate change programs.
Let us just hope politicians and voters from all over the Philippines will not easily forget the lessons from Yolanda’s devastation, because more storms of that kind will surely visit the country.