Hope Over Surrender

Filipinos have been at the receiving end of gloomy warning about our environment these past few weeks.

For one, the Global Climate Risk Index released the first week of December says that the Philippines is the second most affected country in 2018 when we talk of weather-related losses. Last year, our country was hit by Typhoon Mangkhut, the powerful typhoon that devastated Northern Luzon in September, which caused deadly landslides. The report measured the damage done by floods, storms, and heatwaves to humans and economies.

The study published by Bonn-based, German Watch also noted that the Philippines was one of the countries most affected by extraordinary catastrophes in the last two decades. We were ranked fourth in the list of long-term climate impacted countries from 1999 to 2018. We join Myanmar, Haiti, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Puerto Rico in this list.

It won’t also be surprising if the Philippines makes it to the list next year. Just a few weeks ago, Typhoon Tisoy, the strongest typhoon that hit the country this year, slammed the Bicol region with its strong winds and  heavy rains. Typhoon Tisoy forced tens of thousands in evacuation centers and  plunged the Bicol region in  darkness. The local government in Bicol provinces had so much difficulty restoring power in their areas. To date, some areas in Bicol are still without power.

Our country always experiences the wrath of these natural disasters. And in the words of  David Eckstein, Germanwatch policy advisor on climate finance and investments “Countries like Haiti, Philippines and Pakistan are repeatedly hit by extreme weather events and have no time to fully recover. That underlines the importance of reliable financial support mechanisms for poor countries like these not only in climate change adaptation but also for dealing with climate-induced loss and damage.” 

Similarly, a study released by the Climate Central said that major cities in the Philippines are likely to be submerged due to intense coastal flooding worldwide by 2050, all thanks to climate change.

This study warned that the rising seas could erase some of the world’s coastal cities because of higher tides. Unfortunately, Asian countries such as the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, and China in danger of rising sea levels.

The study says cities in Metro Manila including, Navotas, Manila, Malabon, and Pasay are likely to be impacted by coastal flooding. Likewise, Bulacan could also be underwater by the year 2050 while areas in the Visayas such as Aklan, Kalibo and Roxas cities could possibly be submerged due to coastal flooding.

These are somber predictions to end our year. And sadly, there’s no denying the effects of climate change in the country. So, are we just to despair at these gloomy conclusions of our experts?

Fortunately, there’s something we can do to help these from happening, or at least be prepared for these potential disasters. As a nation we need to start being serious about resiliency plans. These plans should span from infrastructure to training of all citizens and to mobilization plans. At the UP Vanguard Inc., where I am National Commander, we are now developing plans to address this issue of resiliency from a strategic and tactical perspectives.

And of course, we can do our share in stopping the continuous rise of greenhouse gas emissions. Experts after experts have been saying that a shift to cleaner energy is one of the best ways to help save the Earth’s destruction by climate change. For the Philippines, this means, putting an end to coal’s dominance in our power mix.

Yes, we can say that it may seem like an impossible task to make this shift to cleaner energy. Yes, we can say that our shift to renewable energy may not mean much from a global perspective. Yes, one can argue that calls for renewable energy have fallen to deaf ears in this country as energy planners and government alike are allowing the prevalence of traditional fossil fuel power in our country despite laws meant to make RE flourish in our country.

Looking at the numbers, we can say that coal is likely to remain, king since as of 2018. Coal accounted for 52.05 percent of our energy source. The figure is more than half of renewable energy’s share of 22.27% for the same period.

So, are we to remain disheartened and give up the fight for renewable energy’s dominance in the Philippines’ power sector?

I dare say no, and I will borrow the words of U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres in the opening of the Climate Summit in Spain a few weeks ago where he said the world must choose hope over surrender in the battle against climate change.

So, I say let us not abandon our quest in helping our government and energy planners realize the value and potential of renewable energy in the country. Not only for our environment but also for energy security and price stability. 

Rather than surrender, we must continue to educate and advocate for a swifter transition to renewable power in the Philippines. Let us continue to remind our leaders of the need to pave the way for distributed energy as the world moves away from the traditional distribution of energy, so more Filipinos can enjoy the benefits of RE. Let us continue working on providing consumers with more choices of their preferred sources of power including renewable energy.

In the end, it may seem like a Herculean task to develop and let renewables flourish in our country. But in the words of the UN secretary “let us choose to hope and work hard towards our goals rather than surrender.”  

I will also pose the same question the UN Secretary-General asked in his opening speech “Do we really want to be remembered as the generation that buried its head in the sand, that fiddled while the planet burned?” And I will go further by asking “Do we want to be remembered as the generation that walked away when we could have made the lives of Filipinos better by giving them affordable and stable electricity?”

Merry Christmas everyone!

One thought on “Hope Over Surrender

  1. A very enlightening view indeed Sir GAAD but I have yet to see PAGASA, the LGUs & the DENR do their job of educating vulnerable communities that are located in typhoon, flood, landslide & earthquake prone areas to abandon these areas or be ready to get out of harm’s way long before a calamity strikes, where to assemble near a pick up point to be transported with their families and belongings to safe areas where the government has all the accomodations and provisions for temporary stay until it’s safe to go back home. Boundaries of these calamity-prone areas must be properly identified, staked and have warning signs so that affected people will not blame the government everytime calamity strikes or for any unwanted consequences of ignoring these signs. People must not only know the tyhoon path but also what needs to be done at any particular point in time. The LGUs have important roles to play in enabling these resiliency measures at the community level if they have to be made effective.

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