By CLEMENTE BAUTISTA
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
The recent floods and landslides which caused massive displacement, destruction and loss of lives in various parts of the country are glaring evidence of the government’s weak disaster risk reduction and management policy and program.
After the damages and destruction brought about by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009, the government has paid lip service to never again let the country experience those kinds of disasters. One of the supposedly steps taken by the government last year, is the passing of the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction Act of 2010 or Republic Act 10121. While the law as a whole is better than the one it preceded, it is apparent that the problem of poor disaster preparedness and response of the government continue to persist.
Latest reports from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) estimates 600,000 people displaced, 29 killed, billions of properties and crops destroyed, and 21 provinces affected in Bicol, Visayas and Mindanao by the monsoon rains that occurred recently.
Responsible agencies such as the Department of Defense which heads the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has still not demonstrated any strong commitment or satisfactory response to the recent calamities.
This inaction and late admonitions of the said agencies are ominous warnings that the country will still be plagued by more displacements, damages and fatalities.
Communities, environmentalists and people’s organizations have long pointed out that these disasters will be significantly minimized if the globalization policies of the government regarding environmental protection and natural resource management such as in mining, fishery, energy, and forestry are reversed. These policies continue to aggravate the vulnerability of communities by degrading the ecosystem, depleting our natural resources and destroying local livelihood.
One such destructive policy of the government is the intensification of its mining liberalization campaign by increasing mining production for exports and investment targets. President Aquino and national agencies such as the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) which supposedly are in the forefront of protecting our environment and local communities have favored destructive mining operations of Xstrata while slamming the initiatives of the provincial government of South Cotabato to protect the local environment by banning destructive open pit mining in their province.
As long as these kinds of unjust and destructive policies that allow entities to plunder our environment exist and no sincere efforts are made by the Aquino administration to raise the quality of life of the Filipinos and the country’s capacity to adapt to extreme weather events and effects of climate change, the country can expect more calamities and devastation in 2011 and in the coming years.