9th Mindanao Media Summit to tackle climate change

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/23 April) Understanding the science of climate change is crucial to media’s role to help communities prepare for impact of climate change.

News media decision makers around Mindanao will focus on communicating the impact of a changing climate during the upcoming 9th Mindanao Media Summit in Davao City on April 25 to 26.

The summit, organized by Mindanews, Philippine Press Institute and the Philippine Information Agency, will gather publishers, station managers, editors, news editors of newspapers, radio, TV and online media, including columnists.

The summit seeks to help enable journalists to report better on climate change so they can also help communities prepare to prevent massive devastation.

“Mindanao faces the threat of climate change that has the potential of affecting thousands of families across the island,” according to organizers in a backgrounder.

Since super typhoon Sendong hit the northern part of Mindanao on December 16, 2011, reporting on natural and man made disasters have become a challenge for journalists, some of whom were not “very well prepared to cover such incidents”.

This summit’s focus on climate change is a follow up to the 7th Mindanao Media Summit in General Santos City, which focused on the news media’s role on Mindanao’s critical environment. The earlier summit in 2011 came just a week ahead of Sendong’s havoc.
The experience of typhoon Pablo December 2012 and the continuous flooding of the rivers in Cotabato further showed the need to train the media in reporting environment disasters.

“(This is) to avoid sensationalism or sow unnecessary panic to listeners or viewers,” organizers said, adding, “providing accurate and timely information has never been more important than it is today.”

There are many local journalists, organizers said, who could help educate their readers and listeners but who are themselves poorly informed, not having been trained to understand the language of science.

“..journalists need to have better skills in getting verifiable and credible information so that they can  report accurately the facts regarding storms, typhoons or the rise in floodwaters to help communities …,”  according to organizers.

Journalists also fail to engage the general public in a discussion on the environment issue which is crucial in exposing specific concerns related to disasters such as health and economics.

Organizers stressed the need to network with scientists, meteorologists, disaster management councils, local government units and build other sources of science journalism stories was also stressed.

Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder will give the keynote speech of the summit. Around 10 resource persons from government, non-government, and media organizations will tackle the theme including one from the Philippine Climate Change Commission.

According to organizers, executive committee of the Mindanao Media Forum, convener of the summit, has already started consultations in 2011 on the training needs of journalists who were covering disasters. Initially, there were small group discussions with journalists who are based in the cities of General Santos and Cotabato, the towns of Marbel, Kidapawan, and Upi.

One of the points raised during consultations was to have an assessment of how journalists covered the past disasters and to learn practical skills from their sharing of experiences.

Among the objectives of the present summit is to increase understanding of editors and columnists in capacity of journalists to produce greater quality of reports on environment and disaster management; create opportunities for journalists to build networks with scientists, technology experts, consumers and other media organizations; get updates on the country’s plans on climate change adaptation and disaster reduction and management; and to mainstream government media in public advocacy on the environment.

In the 2011 summit, former presidential assistant for Mindanao Jesus Dureza challenged the media to dig more and be more critical in the midst of a deteriorating environmental situation in Mindanao

He added that the media must go beyond the usual fare of reportage “amidst the various advocacies” on the island’s deteriorating environmental state.

“Study very well and deliver the correct message,” he told more than a hundred participants to the summit, which focused on “Environment Watch: Mindanao.” Dureza said resource conflict is emerging as a more serious source of conflict in Mindanao and environment watch is the “call of the moment.”

In her rationale of the summit, Carolyn Arguillas, then  chairperson of the Mindanao News and Information Cooperative Center (MNICC), cited that floods in Mindanao have displaced more people than war did.

Arguillas presented that roughly about 100,000 people were displaced by war in Mindanao in 2011.

But she added that in January 2011 alone, floods in Mindanao communities displaced about 855,480 persons, which is 43 percent of the total number (2 million) displaced by floods all over the country (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)