The Science Of Running A Nation

Written by Kelly Choy
Illustration by Savio Aquino
Published 2020 December 9

After four years of constant pandemonium, new president-elect Joe Biden finally dethroned the infamous Trump who served America for one full term. Biden, although boasting a strong political portfolio, was most well-known for his plans against climate change. This contrasted Trump’s blatant neglect of said issue and its laws, evident in how Trump, during his time serving as president, left the Paris Climate Agreement, removed countless regulations that combated climate change, and placed climate deniers in positions of power throughout federal agencies [1]. America’s past lack of concern and involvement in global plans against climate change, then, resulted in the highlight of Biden’s plans for climate change among his other political agendas. He sought to build a more resilient nation through smart infrastructure, to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and to stand-up against abusers of the environment [2]. 

In the context of the Philippines, oppositely, circumstances are not as considerate, especially in regard to addressing environmental and climate issues. President Duterte during the 37th ASEAN Summit outraged scientists and citizens alike when he made a rare statement regarding climate change, stating that such led to the calamities that battered our country and that we must amplify our voices to demand climate justice from environmental abusers. Moreover, he stated that we must further enhance our cooperation on disaster risk reduction management to reinforce our capacities and build a more resilient nation. Ironically, however, it was Duterte himself who stated that climate change conferences were “a waste of money” and dubbed that climate scientists were “noisy”. He also approved of the  ₱4 billion decrease (from ₱20 billion to ₱16 billion) of our calamity fund, which is the allocation of the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) for immediate response to calamities. Moreover, he abolished Project Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH), a responsive disaster prevention and mitigation system that was defunded in 2017 due to lack of funds. However, despite the alleged “lack of funds”, the government still manages to finance projects that are irrelevant to our country’s current problems [4]. Instead of the NDRRMC, NTF-ELCAC, an anti-insurgency committee engaged in red-tagging and propaganda, was allocated ₱19.1 billion. A whopping ₱389 million was also designated to the Dolomite Project, which scientists from University of the Philippines Marine Biological Society (UP MBS) declared would worsen the environmental and poverty conditions of the inhabitants of Manila Bay. The allocation of these funds is extremely ill-timed and unnecessary, especially as besides the calamities our country is experiencing, we are also facing a deadly pandemic. 

Unfortunately, Duterte has also shown continuous neglect for DRRM, the prime science-based disaster response organization of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Their funds were slashed from ₱20 Billion to ₱16 Billion, and due to the low prioritization of the administration, the department’s multiple efforts have tragically suffered. Lack of resources and data, weak coordination, and poor implementation of DRRM laws are merely some of the consequences of the government’s neglect [5]. A portion of DRRM’s funds are also being reportedly used for the government’s “COVID Plans”, but realistically, the government has refused to admit the severity of COVID-19 in our country. Despite being in eight months of quarantine, and has yet to procure a solid plan against the spreading virus. For all we know, those funds are being used to purchase ham and cheese for their Christmas celebrations. Hence, the government should really consider allocating a decent amount of their funds to DRRM, especially since our country is located along the typhoon belt and Pacific Ring of Fire, which makes us more vulnerable to typhoons and earthquakes. 

The onslaught of disasters we faced in 2020 (Taal Eruption, Super Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses) should have been enough to convince our leaders to invest more in science-based policies and departments [6]. Frustratingly, however, the government continues to turn a blind eye towards restoring these policies while continually berating our scientists. Perhaps it is their toxic mindset about our country’s “undefeatable” resilience that prevents them from humbling themselves and investing time and funds into our scientists [5]. 

While it is important to elect leaders who dauntlessly address politically taboo issues, it is equally — if not more — significant to elect leaders who reinforce science. In the Philippines, our current administration runs on the belief that “science should not stand in the way of business”. Ideally, however, we must not tolerate a government that constantly mocks and disregards scientists’ criticisms and advice. Instead, we must vote for an administration that will allow science to lead the way in the formation of policies [3]. Now more than ever, we need to build a more resilient and united country while addressing our country’s predicaments in the name of science.

The impact of our administration’s neglect has shown how relevant science-centered departments and their initiatives truly are. If these policies were not neglected, countless lives and livelihoods would have been saved, and we would have been able to freely walk on the streets without a mask by now. Thus, I strongly emphasize that our government and future politicians must never turn a blind eye against science. Prevention will always be better than the cure. Surely, allowing science to lead the way will lessen the severity and impact of the disasters our country is prone to.

As Election 2022 fast approaches, I urge you to vote for leaders that will invest in science-based policies. Vote for leaders that are willing to invest themselves into the real problems of our country. Vote for leaders that are open-minded. Vote for leaders that will allow science to lead them.

References

  1. Temple J. What Biden will and won’t be able to achieve on climate change [Internet]. MIT Technology Review. 2020 [cited 23 November 2020]. Available from: https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/11/06/1011716/what-biden-will-and-wont-be-able-to-achieve-on-climate-change/
  2. Plan for Climate Change and Environmental Justice | Joe Biden [Internet]. Joe Biden for President: Official Campaign Website. 2020 [cited 23 November 2020]. Available from: https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/#
  3. Jackson C, Shearer A. Yes, Science Is Political [Internet]. Scientific American. 2020 [cited 23 November 2020]. Available from: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/yes-science-is-political/
  4. Madarang C. ‘Project NOAH’ and ‘National Calamity Fund’ create online buzz as Duterte bats for climate justice [Internet]. Interaksyon. 2020 [cited 23 November 2020]. Available from: https://interaksyon.philstar.com/politics-issues/2020/11/13/180530/project-noah-and-national-calamity-fund-create-online-buzz-as-duterte-bats-for-climate-justice/
  5. [ANALYSIS] Filipinos aren’t so much resilient as Duterte is incompetent, abusive [Internet]. Rappler. 2020 [cited 23 November 2020]. Available from: https://www.rappler.com/voices/thought-leaders/analysis-filipinos-arent-resilient-duterte-incompetent-abusive
  6. Lalu G. Gov’t has money to aid Super Typhoon Rolly survivors – DBM chief [Internet]. INQUIRER.net. 2020 [cited 23 November 2020]. Available from: https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1355670/govt-assures-funds-available-to-help-typhoon-victims-with-p3-6-b-calamity-funds

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