By Joe Zaldarriaga

Warmer days ahead

Over the past few weeks, rising heat indices have dominated the news and public discussions as various concerns mount over the effects of the unusually high temperatures.

While the Philippines is no stranger to hot days during the dry season, the heat in recent days is unlike any many of us have experienced in the past.

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) recently warned the public to brace for warmer days ahead and "extreme danger" heat indices in May, which is further exacerbated by the El Niño phenomenon.

Across various industries and sectors, the impact of the scorching weather we are experiencing is highly pronounced and if any, sounds the alarm for immediate concrete action to help our communities cope during the remainder of the dry season.

The Department of Agriculture just recently reported that the El Niño has so far caused some PHP4 billion in agriculture losses — which could bloat further as the weather phenomenon persists until May. The Department of Education and local government units are also implementing measures to adapt to the unusual heat — shifting classes to distance learning anew or suspending classes altogether to protect students from high heat indices.

Public health officials meanwhile have been issuing advisories on how Filipinos can better regulate their body temperatures to cope with the extreme heat. Some have been calling it even a heatwave.

The way I view it, the extreme heat we are experiencing is only a preview of the worsening impact of climate change, which, if not addressed properly, will continue to threaten all aspects of our society — economy, education, agriculture, public health, and wellbeing.

The dangers posed by the relentless heat are complicated and expansive, which is why additional support to help our vital sectors navigate this challenge is necessary to protect and ensure economic growth.

This dry season serves as an urgent call for a review and recalibration of measures to help our communities adapt to the extreme heat and develop resiliency.

As we enter the month of May, priority should be given to vulnerable groups in implementing programs and adopting measures to cope with rising temperatures. These include workers who toil under the heat of the sun, the elderly, children, and the pregnant.

Measures to protect their wellbeing from the extreme heat should be adopted by organizations across industries and sectors. For example, practicing energy efficiency and water conservation can help ensure sufficiency of supply to meet the demand so that households don’t have to worry about the possibility of rotating power interruptions and lack of water supply.

Animals too should not be forgotten.

Just a few days ago, the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) warned pet owners of the health risks posed by the extreme heat to animals after news of a dog with scalded paws made headlines.

According to PAWS, owners can protect their animals from extreme heat by shielding them from extremely hot surfaces and keeping them indoors.

However, while we strive to achieve short-term resilience, this must not cloud efforts to address the root of the problem.

In the broader sense, the government and the private sector must take a firm commitment and concrete steps to address climate change head on and pursue long-term initiatives that promote sustainability.

After all, the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change — not just extreme heat but strong typhoons as well.

As we brace for warmer days ahead in May, let us not be distracted with band-aid solutions and keep in mind the need to work towards achieving long-term sustainability to achieve a greener and cooler future.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Joe Zaldarriaga

Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.

Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.