‘Project NOAH’ and ‘National Calamity Fund’ create online buzz as Duterte bats for climate justice

November 13, 2020 - 6:25 PM
A screenshot of the Project NOAH website (http://noah.dost.gov.ph/) with the project’s logo.

President Rodrigo Duterte‘s call to combat the effects climate change prompted his critics to talk about Project NOAH, an old disaster response initiative, and budget cuts on the National Calamity Fund online.

Amid the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses on November 12, Duterte attended the first day of the 37th Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit via video conference, along with other member-states.

The international event runs from November 12 to 15.

In his address during the plenary session, Duterte cited the impact of tropical cyclines “Rolly” and “Ulysses” in the Philippines as consequences of climate change and called for cooperation in combating them.

“We must therefore further enhance our cooperation on disaster risk reduction management to reinforce our capacities, both at the national and regional levels. More importantly, we must amplify our voices to demand climate justice from those most responsible for this existential challenge we face today,” he said.

He also demanded for climate justice from developed countries that commit the most carbon emissions in the world.

Duterte described it their “moral responsibility.”

“This is their moral responsibility from which there should be no escape. Otherwise, it would be great injustice – a double blow to those who bear the brunt of the adverse consequences of their past actions and present inactions,” he said.

Both natural calamities, which occurred weeks apart, battered several regions across the country, particularly in Bicol and Metro Manila.

“Ulysses,” in particular, triggered widespread flooding in Marikina, Pasig, Bulacan, Cavite, Quezon and other areas in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces.

Following Duterte’s talk on climate change, the terms “Project Noah” and “calamity fund” topped the trends list on local Twitter as Filipinos remembered both disaster response efforts which could have helped better prepare the country during natural disasters.

NOAH spelled out as Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards is a project of the Department of Science and Technology that the national government defunded in 2017.

On the other hand, the calamity fund refers to the allocation for the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council from the annual General Appropriations Act or the National Budget.

The latest on Project NOAH, calamity fund

Project NOAH

DOST launched NOAH in 2012 in response to the country’s need for a comprehensive disaster prevention and mitigation program.

The agency funded it until the national government moved to shut down the research program in 2017, citing lack of funds.

Former projects prior to closure include landslide sensors, storm surge inundation mapping project, the flood network and the hydromet sensors development.

Then, through the University of the Philippines Executive Order PDLC 17-03, DOST turned the research center over to the premier state university and became an attached agency of the UP System’s Office of the President.

The organization is currently headed by Mahar Lagmay.

Based on its official website, the UP NOAH sought to raise the public’s awareness on hazards.

“The core of UP NOAH’s work is producing freely accessible, accurate, reliable, and relevant scientific disaster data. Essential to this is a multidisciplinary approach in assessing risk and using the lens of different scientific areas. This ensures that we provide Filipinos with an integrative appraisal of the natural hazards that put them in danger,” its profile read.

The interactive website through http://noah.up.edu.ph/ is accessible to the public.

2020 Calamity Fund

During the deliberations of the 2020 National Budget last year, Congress reduced NDRRMC’s budget allocation to only P16 billion, a P4 billion cut from Duterte’s initial proposal of P20 billion.

In its January 2020 report, think tank Ibon Foundation that the administration also slashed calamity funds in 2017.

“The NDRRMC budget was cut by more than half (Php23 billion) to just Php15.8 billion in 2017 from Php38.9 billion in 2016 under the Aquino administration,” the report read.

The organization criticized this saying the government “disregards the country’s longstanding vulnerability to disasters.”