This Week in Media (September 26 to 30, 2022)
Supertyphoon Karding pummels Luzon, confronts Marcos admin with effects of climate crisis
JUST LAST September 20, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was urging “industrialized” nations attending the United Nations General Assembly to do more in addressing the climate crisis, as developing countries such as the Philippines are affected the most. And yet, while still in the USA, he did not publicly announce any directive to concerned officials in Philippines to respond to tropical cyclone Karding (international name Noru), which started as a tropical depression on September 22. When Marcos sat down for an inter-agency briefing post-Karding, he readily drew comparison to past typhoons, reflecting either his shock or his curiosity that recent typhoons are becoming stronger.
By September 25, Karding was already a supertyphoon, making its first landfall in Burdeos, Quezon province that afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers per hour. Raising cyclone signals to 4 and 5, the impact of the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year was felt in the seven regions of Luzon, with Central and Southern Luzon suffering the most severe damage.
Media explored the usual angles in covering Karding: reporting the press briefings and forecasts by state weather bureau PAGASA; the evacuation and rescue efforts; the usual estimates of damage to life, property, infrastructure and agriculture. As of this writing, 12 deaths have been recorded, including five rescuers in Bulacan who died on duty. Meanwhile, almost 30 thousand families have been affected.
In its latest bulletin issued September 29, the Department of Agriculture (DA) estimated loss and damage at PHP2.02 billion, with the worst hit sector, rice production, losing PHP1.66 billion.
Broadcast media carried the video posted on social media by Felix Pangibitan, a rice farmer from Laur, Nueva Ecija, who taped a final record of his crops in anticipation of their destruction. Journalists who tracked Pangibitan after the typhoon reported that 60 percent of his crops had gone to waste.
The business sections of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Philstar.com cited the concerns of market analysts and economists that the agricultural damage might further drive up inflation as the year ends.
So far, President and concurrent Agriculture Secretary Marcos has been silent, with no comment on these matters.
Arriving from the US in the morning of September 25, Marcos attended the September 26 briefing of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), during which he said the country “got lucky” as the government, particularly the local units, had prepared for the typhoon. Media quoted this statement with no questions, as well as Marcos’ report that following his aerial inspection, he found “minimal” damage to private and public property.
In the same NDRRMC briefing, Marcos asked whether storms developing or intensifying quickly, sometimes in a matter of hours, is a “trend” of climate change. He said this phenomenon has to be dealt with, but did not discuss how government would do so.
Commendably, some reports went beyond documenting events as they happened by providing important points of discussion that should aid greatly in raising the country’s capacity to respond to more severe typhoons.
Inquirer.net and Frontline Pilipinas produced explainers to help understand the relatively new term “explosive intensification,” which PAGASA used to describe how Karding had quickly gained in strength. The reports identified weather conditions that make this phenomenon possible, referring to PAGASA’s example, Typhoon Rolly in 2020. Frontline Pilipinas added academic studies in the US which projected the increased frequency of Category 5 cyclones — as strong as 2013’s Supertyphoon Yolanda — around the world in the coming decades.
Meanwhile, some online and print news outfits, among them Philstar.com, Interaksyon, news.ABS-CBN.com, CNNPhilippines.com and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, reported the exchange on social media about the need to protect the Sierra Madre mountain range as a natural protection against strong typhoons. With “Save Sierra Madre Day” observed on September 26, news accounts cited renewed calls for Sierra Madre’s protection. Inquirer.net’s in-depth piece involved more environmental advocates who provided data on lost forest cover due to illegal and invasive human activities, emphasizing the need to go beyond lauding Sierra Madre’s protective capacities on social media.
Ana Marie Pamintuan, editor of The Philippine Star, noted in her September 28 column the renewed calls in the legislature for the creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience in the wake of Karding. She noted that J “When faced with a problem, the go-to response of policy makers is not to implement structural reforms for efficiency, but to further bloat the bureaucracy by creating a new department or agency that they can pack (at taxpayers’ expense) with beneficiaries of their patronage.”
She also referred to the reclamation projects in Manila Bay amid rising sea levels, which could sink the area permanently in the near future. Pamintuan recalled that former President Duterte had initially “made noise” about such projects, but these “turned out to be nothing but hot air.”
As President and concurrent Agriculture Secretary, Marcos Jr. appears disturbingly clueless about these issues. His remarks sound as though he has yet to wrap his head around the reality of climate change and its connection to worsening disasters, especially for a country in the Pacific typhoon belt. Without understanding the urgency of the challenge, there is only the slightest possibility that Filipinos can depend on this administration to provide measures to mitigate the effects of these disasters.
This lack of leadership calls on the media to become more proactive in the task of amplifying the voices of those who know and the advocates who have been staunchly defending the environment. The media should also be quick in calling out the lack of real solutions as a failure of elected officials and their appointees.