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MANILA, Philippines – “No typhoons, all year round.”
This is how residents of Cagayan de Oro used to describe their province. Unfortunately, this description no longer holds.
When Sendong struck the south in December 2011, people were caught unprepared mainly because typhoons do not usually visit the south.
“Thirteen years na ako sa Cagayan de Oro, noong Sendong ko lang na-experience iyong grabeng ulan at baha talaga. Mula noon, lagi na rin kaming inuulan,” Judith Suga said. (I lived in Cagayan de Oro for 13 years. I only experienced intense rain and flooding during Sendong. It’s been raining frequently since then.)
A former resident of Cagayan de Oro, Suga recently moved farther north to Pangasinan in search of safer ground.
“Natakot na ako eh. Baka bumaha ulit. Kasi ngayon, magdamag lang iyong ulan, umaapaw na iyong tubig.” (I’m afraid now. It might flood again. Nowadays, water already overflows with overnight rain.)
During Sendong, Suga had to bring her family up a mango tree. They stayed there for hours until a relative came to their rescue. Moving to Pangasinan, Suga is more hopeful their awful experience during Sendong won’t happen again.
Effects of climate change?
The damage brought by Sendong could be attributed to both natural and human factors. Deforestation, unpreparedness, mining and a shallow river system could have all exacerbated the damage caused by continued raining.
However, climate change could have contributed too to the odd and extreme changes in weather patterns and paths as seen in Sendong.
Filipinos do not just experience the effects of climate change during typhoons. According to the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), climate change in the country directly affects fishermen and farmers alike, rain or shine.
“So those are the effects—frequency and extreme magnitude of extreme weather events. In parts of Mindanao, people become nervous when it starts to rain because they are not used to storms,” PMCJ co-convenor Liddy Nakpil said in a mix of English and Filipino during a media briefing on July 9.
In a study conducted by the World Bank, fish catch in the southern Philippines could be reduced by half 30 years from now due to climate change. On the other hand, agriculture harvest gets affected due to the unpredictability and odd changes in weather.
Hold developed countries accountable
The widespread effects of climate change experienced in the country have set off alarms over climate finance.
Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or (UNFCCC), developed countries agreed to finance developing countries like the Philippines in “implementing climate adaptation and mitigation measures.” This is grounded in the belief that developed countries are accountable for the increased emission of greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
However, in the media briefing held by PMCJ, Nakpil stressed that “we need to expose the fact that they are not delivering.”
According to Nakpil, developed countries pledge to pay US$100 billion a year to developing countries by 2020. However, the conditions for the pledge remain ambiguous. It’s unclear when they will actually start giving the funds.
From July 16-17, delegates from the nations involved in UNFCCC will converge in Makati City to discuss this matter and come up with recommendations for the long-term program for climate finance.
Increase public climate funding
In addition to funding from developed countries, PMCJ also stressed that the country should also increase its climate finance.
Nakpil said the country should set aside its own funds for climate finance. But this should not stop us from demanding bilateral and multilateral funding from developed countries.
The Philippine Public Expenditure and Institutional Review (PH-CPEIR) of the World Bank, in collaboration with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), showed that the country is only allotting 0.3% of GDP for climate change-related efforts. This is contrary to the World Bank recommendation that at least 2% of GDP be allocated for climate change.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the government is “committed to providing sufficient budgetary support for programs and projects that mitigate the effects of climate change in the country.” According to him, allocations for climate change programs have already been increasing yearly by 26% since 2009.
Initial reports also show that the government is expected to allot P13 billion for climate-related projects streamlined from the 2014 budget of various agencies including DOST, DENR, DPWH, DOH, MMDA and DAR.
Aside from increasing climate finance, other non-profit organizations also appeal for integrating climate change-related efforts into local government initiatives, thereby treating it as a relevant development issue that local government units should also tackle.
Climate change affects Filipinos like Suga in many ways. Both local and international communities are already actively committed to the issue, with various projects and programs already in the pipeline.
Stakeholders however need to make sure that promises are actually delivered. – Rappler.com