The Long View: Know your hazards


Know your hazards


In a forthcoming episode of “Proyekto Pilipino,” the civics program of which I’m a part, our guest Mahar Lagmay answered our questions about the heat wave that made everyone’s lives a misery over recent weeks. During our discussion, he pointed out that we now have to prepare for something completely different. If the record-breaking heat was an aspect of El Niño, which brings drought in its wake, we now have to brace ourselves for La Niña, in which the rain and flooding will be our new normal for time to come.

He made an interesting point about how much of the preparations made by public and private institutions include assessing risk on the basis of historical models: the impact of events that can be tracked over 100-year periods and its increments. But Lagmay’s point is that with global warming and the accelerating changes to climate it triggers, we have to rely less on the expected and prepare more for the unexpected—if things could be based on records from the past, we have to imagine things becoming very much worse and plan accordingly.

It seems to me we have to demand more proactive thinking on the part of our officials when it comes to foreseeing what might be in store for us when it comes to the climate. Consider the heat wave that hogged the headlines. From the point of view of our relationship with government, its most tangible impact, aside from the large number of deaths we all discussed in private, but which wasn’t systematically reported in public, was the decision to restore the old school year because so many class days were lost due to classes being called off due to the heat.


The thing is, that was an El Niño-related phenomenon. Now we will be living through La Niña, in which case we can expect that more class days will be lost due to rain and floods. It’s perfectly conceivable that when that happens, there will then be a demand to move the school year back to the new, soon-to-be-scrapped, academic schedule. And so it goes. Everyone will be reacting after the fact, without pausing to reflect on what the real problem is. We could discuss, for example, that the real problem is that both summer and the rainy season will be far more inhospitable to young people, moving forward. But to acknowledge this as the real problem might be scary because it would require an even deeper discussion on the kinds of facilities we have when another longstanding problem is that we simply never have enough facilities devoted to educational purposes for the public.

In a more competitive society (because more geared to actual problem-solving rather than finger-pointing), the forthcoming barangay and midterm elections in 2025 should provide the perfect opportunity to demand from candidates, local and national, a less reactive and a more proactive approach to the challenges our changing climate will bring.

Perhaps, individually, we might feel unempowered to make such a demand on our officials. But this is where a basic political truth comes into play. How often have you heard the saying, “politics is addition”? Or that it is “a numbers game.” This is why the power of one matters when joined with others: the one becomes the many and unignorable in any political contest. This is where your associations can definitively matter: be it your alumni association, your civic association, even your religious organization. In as much as media’s reach and clout have been considerably reduced, numbers are numbers and no one can ignore enough comments online or enough petitions bristling with signatures handed to people courting votes.


Here’s a simple exercise. Visit and bookmark Project NOAH:, and in particular, check out and check out its maps for your area. Established in 2012, NOAH stands for Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards. Today, after the national government pulled the plug on it in 2017, Project NOAH is under the auspices of the UP Resilience Institute.

You will see the danger zones in your area. First thing to ask yourself: Is your barangay/local government unit one of the 57 percent of LGUs that the United Nations Development Programme says use NOAH for planning disaster response? The answer might surprise you.


Manuel L. Quezon III.

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