Baby Sta. Cruz, 45,
has a rheumatic heart disease and the extreme heat worsens her condition.
To avoid any harm the hot temperature could cause her, she takes a bath
often. With the soaring temperatures nowadays, she takes a shower at least
thrice a day.
An electric fan
already set to the maximum speed is not enough to relieve the heat. She
also has with her a wet towel she uses to cool down her exposed body
environmental activist group warned that the recent incidents of extreme
heat and power shortages in Luzon are just the beginning of more climate
change-related phenomena that would affect the Filipino poor the most.
"We should brace for
more extreme heat spells and its effects on our power, water, and
agricultural systems, and on the millions of Filipinos living below the
poverty line," warned Clemente Bautista, Kalikasan Peoples Network for the
Environment (Kalikasan PNE) national coordinator.
Pollution is seen by
environmental activists as among the factors that aggravate the
problem of extreme heat which is caused by climate change
Because of the
extreme heat, the state-owned National Power Corp. (Napocor) said that a
surge in demand for electricity caused a power shortage last April 18. The
power outage hit large parts of Luzon, further reducing the power supply.
On April 17,
temperatures shot up to 36.8 degrees Centigrade, the hottest recorded so
far this year by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical
Services Administration (PAGASA). The weather forecasting agency also
warned that hotter weather spells would persist until next month.
"It's the 'little
people' in the Philippines who suffer most from heat spells and extreme
weather conditions caused by climate change: those who do not have access
to electricity, let alone the luxury of air conditioning and other
amenities or travel to cooler climates, for example,” said Bautista,
“Those who can no longer afford to pay such high power rates, or have no
access to safe, cheap, potable water services. Those who can not afford
hospitalization and medical expenses from asthma or other respiratory
diseases which are aggravated by the country's worsening air pollution
problem in addition to the extreme heat."
Bautista added that
it is ironic that millions of poor people suffer when they are not the
main contributors to global warming. It is the “dirty industries and
filthy-rich transnational companies whose executives can easily afford to
avoid the heat spells here who are the culprits.”
Kalikasan PNE said
that in the Philippines, 49 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are
from the energy sector primarily from oil industries, power generation and
manufacturing industries, many of which are monopolized by foreign
transnational companies such as Petron, Shell and Caltex in the oil
industry and Mirant (U.S.), Enron Power Corporation (U.S.), Far East
Livingston (Singapore) in the energy sector with its coal and oil based
change primarily threatens the lives of the poor from underdeveloped and
Third World countries when in fact the United States is the biggest
processor and unregulated user of oil and petroleum products all over the
world and the number one polluter of Green House Gases (GHG), emitting
more than 25 percent of all the GHGs," said the environmental activist
Despite the threat of
global warming, Bautista said the Arroyo administration has "not passed or
implemented effective policies and programs to reduce the GHG pollution
from industrial sources."
Even with the passage
of the Clean Air Act in 1999, Bautista said, air pollution particularly in
the urban areas continues to worsen with the unregulated use of fuel in
industries, which will only aggravate the extreme weather conditions.
"In fact, in the
Arroyo administration's strategic energy plan, the contribution of coal
power plants to energy production will also increase the volume of
pollutants coming from the energy sector," said Bautista.
The group also said
that dead rivers full
of debris and poisonous industrial waste, faulty and inadequate sewers,
and lack of cheap potable water systems are making the extreme heats
spells hitting Metro Manila even more unbearable for ordinary Filipinos.
Kalikasan PNE, along with party list groups Bayan Muna, Kabataan, and
Suara Bangamoro, and scientists organization Samahan ng mga Nagtataguyod
ng Agham at Teknolohiya Para sa Sambayanan (AGHAM), dramatized this call
by holding an estero (creek) clean-up along the Lagarian creek near
Barangay Pinagkaisahan and EDSA Avenue corner Kamuning Road in Quezon
said that almost all major rivers in Metro Manila are now
biologically-dead, the most infamous of which is the Pasig River.
Nationwide, he said 50 of 421 rivers―or one out of eight― are
biologically-dead, or incapable of sustaining life, and are hazardous if
used as drinking, recreation, or irrigation sources.
even if we are literally surrounded by water, Filipinos can not readily
use these sources to seek relief from the scorching summer heat,” he said.
“In fact, only 65 percent of the population is able to source water for
domestic consumption, a large portion of which remains unsafe for
also called attention to the health hazards posed by the lack of adequate
sewerage systems in the cities, unabated industrial waste and the lack of
an effective garbage collection system.
group said that only 13 percent of the population in Metro Manila is
connected to centralized sewerage systems while around 25 percent of Metro
Manila's garbage ends up clogging rivers, esteros and drainage
canals, and waterways.
areas, the conspicuous lack of green spaces and tree cover also aggravates
the unbearable heat, Bautista said.
outside the cities, fast disappearing forest cover all throughout the
Philippines is a more alarming cause for concern, he said. According to
the last inventory of the Forest Management Bureau in 2002, forest cover
has dipped to only 16 percent of the Philippine's land area. Added to
this, 124 out of 154 watershed areas designated by the DENR are already in
of this, the Arroyo administration continues to promote the wanton
extraction of fast disappearing forest reserves.
government has one by one lifted log bans and farmed out commercial
logging permits in the form of Timber Licensing Agreements (TLAs) and 23
Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) permits from January 2001 to
2004. IFMAs allow their holders, including private industrial tree
plantations, the right to timber and all other forest products in their
territories," Bautista explained.
said that this rapid trend of denudation would spell more bad news for the
country in the long run.
"Forests, next to oceans, act as a carbon sink that can mitigate global
warming. They help generate a liveable air environment by absorbing carbon
dioxide emissions, pollutive chemicals in the atmosphere and particulates
and release oxygen back into the atmosphere," Bautista said.
Philippines has an ecosystem that is archipelagic, generally mountainous
and sloping, so we really should maintain an ideal forest cover of around
54 percent of the total land area or more to help prevent occurrences of
flash floods, exacerbated landslides, and biodiversity loss," he said.
said that it is the "people (who) are suffering from national government
and local government officials' lack of a comprehensive water management
system and the absence of comprehensive rehabilitation and management
plans to revive our dying or dead rivers.”
called on the voters not to vote for those officials who can afford to
beat the heat by staying inside their air-conditioned cars and rooms or go
on vacation to cooler climates when majority of the poor have to suffer
from the lack of such basic necessities, such as safe and affordable
drinking water. Bulatlat
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© 2007 Bulatlat
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