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Calamity curfew

By: Kairos dela Cruz

A reflection on how inaction towards addressing climate impacts can be surpassed by collaboration.

We are back in Davao, which means apart from fresh kinilaw and perfectly charred sinugba, we are racing against the 10 o’clock alcohol curfew. We need ice cold beer. To some the cut-off may suck but people seem to have adapted well enough to laugh and drink it all before the evening deadline.

Obviously, my team and I are not here in Davao to just hang around. We’re here to formalize our partnership with the University of South Eastern Philippines (USEP) through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that simply says we agree we need to scale up common work around climate issues – by sharing expertise.

danica sugba

Danica, our Policy Analyst, having a hard time in choosing which “sinugba” we should have before heading to USEP at one of Davao’s famous joints– Luz Kinilaw and Sinugba.

The signing was short and sweet with the newly appointed USEP President Dr. Lourdes Generalao expressing her commitment to ensure their current climate research initiatives will converge with climate finance and policy. We agreed we will exert efforts to fill gaps between research and policy through the MOU.

After formalities, we talked about issues surrounding climate policy. The tone of the conversation turned disdainful when the issue of drought came up. “The problem is not unsolvable, we just failed to prepare for it, and look who is paying the highest price now,” shared USEP’s focal person Engr. Edith Hebron while browsing through the iCSC-authored report on slow onset climate impacts (SOI).  

Almost a year ago, on May 20, 2015 to be exact, iCSC partnered with the Congressional Policy Budget and Research Department (CPBRD) in launching a research on SOI with a handful of technocrats and representatives. The event was considerably a success, creating momentum for policy change that it had sought to initiate. But the paper’s national context tamped down the enthusiasm of the highly parochial arm of the legislature. So this time, we intend to make better use of the national context by focusing on local attribution efforts on SOI as a main objective of our partnership with USEP and, a few months ago, with Benguet State University.

Now, the drought in Mindanao, which already inflicted millions of pesos worth of damages, won’t qualify as SOI, but the changes it ushered in were not exactly as abrupt as a typhoon or a storm surge. Officials knew it was coming. It was predicted but the reaction was too slow and fragmented to count. It makes me think — if only there was a 10 o’clock cutoff before inaction is treated by the public as economic sabotage. If only there was a semblance of a climate curfew prodding our policy makers and agencies to act with a greater sense of urgency.

Still, this MOU makes me optimistic. If we work better together, we might be able to raise the alarm earlier and act with a greater sense of purpose and dispatch, way before we actually cross more catastrophic deadlines imposed by nature.

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