“We are no longer vulnerable, we are already suffering from climate change.” – Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – On the first anniversary of typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan), experts and advocates called on the Philippine government to undertake measures to mitigate the impact of climate change.
In a forum organized by the Climate Change Network for Community-Based Initiatives (CCNCI), Nov. 7, Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said Typhoon Yolanda is “a vicious reminder that climate change is in the country.” “We are no longer vulnerable, we are already suffering from climate change,” Ilagan said.
According to government data, Yolanda left 6,300 dead and 28,000 injured. More than a thousand went missing.
Ilagan said the Philippines has not done enough to address climate change amid the deadly disasters in recent years such as Yolanda, Pablo, Sendong and Ondoy.
First, the country does not have a comprehensive study on the long-term effects of climate change on the Philippines. Ilagan said the Philippine counterpart of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its assessment report released in July 2014, relied on the researches and findings of scientists in global and regional settings.
Second, Ilagan said the climate change research does not receive the investment it deserves. Ilagan said it is recommended that the climate change research is equivalent to two percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) but the allocation for climate change is less than 0.5 percent of the GDP. Three-fourths of the budget goes to mitigation programs and only one-fourth is allotted for research, Ilagan said.
The legislator added that in the 2015 national budget, P3.8 billion (US$84 million) is allocated for climate change as against the original proposal of P5 billion ($111 million).
Ilagan noted that only two bills on climate change have been filed in Congress. She lamented that more measures are filed seeking to open up the economy and national patrimony to foreign investors. “This means more land-use conversions, more extractive industries such as mining and coal-power plants which aggravate our vulnerability to climate change,” she said.
Dr. Leoncio Amadore, an atmospheric scientist, said a science-based disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are needed.
To reduce risks, hazard, exposure and vulnerability should be decreased and coping capacity should be increased, Amadore said.
He said the impact of a storm surge could be reduced through appropriate structural measures, such as building seven-meter-high structures.
Reducing vulnerability, Amadore said, could be done by building typhoon-resistant homes and reducing social and economic vulnerabilities.
Increasing coping capacity, meanwhile, could be done through establishing early warning systems, ensuring quick and safe relocation and efficient barangay-level disaster risk reduction and management teams.
The scientist cited the community in Palo-Alto, Lingig, Surigao del Sur, which suffered one casualty during typhoon Pablo due to timely evacuation. All structures were washed out by the storm surge but hundreds of lives were saved, he said.
Amadore said detailed hazard, vulnerability and risk analyses leads to effective disaster-risk reduction and climate change adaptation. The absence or lack of these, he said, would lead to maladaptation.
In his message to the CCNCI, Yeb Saño, commissioner of the Philippines’ Climate Change Commission and lead negotiator for the United Nations climate convention, said, “There is no doubt that climate change would deepen poverty thereby posing a tremendous challenge to social and human development. If climate change is not addressed adequately, it could seriously hinder our aspirations for a brighter future for the whole world.”