Groups say typhoon ‘Pablo’ reminds climate change is real, urge PNoy to act now

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/12 December) — Typhoon “Pablo” should remind Filipinos that climate change is real and has worsened the economic burdens of poor families such as hunger and water scarcity, Juland Suazo of Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao said Tuesday.

Suazo said storms “Sendong” and “Pablo” which hit Mindanao one year after the other were “unusual” for Mindanao based on meteorological records that the island is supposedly typhoon-free.

“But the two consecutive storms hitting the island indicate that Mindanao is no longer storm-proof. Scientists said Pablo is the strongest storm to hit Mindanao in 40 years,” he noted.

The last typhoon that hit the island was Titang in 1970 “but the extent of damages was lesser compared to Pablo,” he said.

He attributed Mindanao’s vulnerability to harsher storms, landslides and flash floods to decreasing forest cover caused primarily by commercial logging and large-scale mining.

Mindanao has now only 10 percent forest cover, while scientists assert that the country needs at least 56 percent of forestland to make it less vulnerable to extreme weather events.

Panalipdan said the President should act immediately as the country is becoming increasingly vulnerable to climate-related disasters.

“Aquino’s business-as-usual policies on the economy such as the active promotion of foreign large-scale mining and coal-fired power plants will lead us more to devastation and destitution,” Suazo said.

He added the government must also resist foreign dictates with regard to policies on mining and energy use.

Climate change hotspot

Mindanao is already a hotspot of climate change as water scarcity and droughts could become worse in the island over the next 10 years, Mark Dia of Greenpeace Southeast Asia said Tuesday.

He said the very fact that typhoon “Pablo” originated near the equator is unusual and this only shows that the weather is now unpredictable.

“This is the indication that we are really going towards so-called runaway climate change,” he said.

He cited that scientists in the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change said that if global temperatures would rise by an average of two degrees Centigrade, it would become impossible to make accurate weather predictions.

“But we have not reached an average of a degree of temperature rise and yet this is what happened here, which means we might be reaching that point sooner rather than later,” he said.

Putting up additional coal-fired power plants should be stopped, especially in Mindanao, in addressing the power crisis, he added.

Dia pointed out that such technology is a major contributor to climate change and consumes a huge amount of fresh water, considering the prediction that there will be scarcity of fresh water in Mindanao.

Greenpeace is advocating a global reduction in carbon emissions, which he said, should be a solution that involves everybody.

Other factors that have contributed to climate change that are prevalent in Mindanao, he said, are mining and logging operations.

“We are saying that anything that destroys the natural environment will decrease its resiliency towards extreme weather events. And mining as we know has the possibility of releasing catastrophic toxic wastes into the waterways,” he said.

“We need to look far into the future especially in an archipelagic country like ours and we are one of the 10 most vulnerable countries in the world with regard to climate change, so we need to take that very seriously,” he added.

Dia led his group’s relief operations for the victims of typhoon Pablo, on board M/V Esperanza that docked at the Davao Port in Sasa on Tuesday and loaded with a total of 55 tons of relief assistance from Manila.

The relief goods consisted of 400 sacks of rice, 8,000 bottles of water and 98 bags of used clothing from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

It also had 2,000 family packs from Sagip Kapamilya and family kits for 450 families with mosquito nets, pails, spoons and forks, and hygiene kits and used clothing from the Save the Children. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)