CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The sweltering heat has brought cycling enthusiast Pat Jared Pangantihon to a standstill, forcing him to call off all his planned mountain bike excursions in the city’s upland villages this week.
“I ride my bike for my health and leisure, but the heat is just ridiculous. I might collapse from heat exhaustion,” Pangantihon told Rappler on Tuesday, April 18.
Meanwhile, Emelda Villafuerte, a resident of a rural community in Macapaya, Barangay Camaman-an, had to cancel all her appointments in the city due to the scorching heat.
“I have many important transactions to do at city hall today, but I have to postpone them to next week. Maybe the heat won’t be this scorching,” Villafuerte said.
Government weather forecasters are predicting a continuing rise in surface temperature at the onset of the El Niño phenomenon.
With temperatures rising above 30°C in the city since the weekend, residents here are feeling the brunt of sweltering heat on a daily basis.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Atmospheric Sciences Administration (Pagasa) has issued a warning about the rising surface temperatures across Northern Mindanao.
The temperature hit a maximum of 32°C on Tuesday, and Pagasa said it would likely be the same on Wednesday – and that’s not taking into account the heat index or the measure of how hot it feels to the human body due to the air temperature and humidity.
Pagasa forecast a maximum temperature of 33°C in the city on Thursday, April 20, and back to 32°C the following day.
Based on recent conditions and model forecasts, the El Niño phenomenon will likely develop in the July-August-September season and may persist until 2024, according to Pagasa administrator Vicente Malano.
Based on Pagasa data, low rainfall will persist below 10% for the rest of the year, while high temperatures will begin at 15% during the clustered months of April to June and increase to 60-70% during the clustered months of October to December, as per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center’s El Niño Southern Oscillation (Enso) based on three-month groupings.
“With this development, the Pagasa Enso Alert and Warning System is now raised to El Niño Watch. El Niño is characterized by unusually warmer than average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific,” read Pagasa’s public advisory.
This means that temperatures will continuously rise towards the end of the year as the country experiences El Niño.
Pagasa also advised the public that protective measures should be taken to reduce their exposure to high temperatures, especially the elderly, children, and people with preexisting medical conditions.
Cagayan de Oro City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Department (CDRRMD) manager Nick Jabagat told Rappler on Tuesday that they have been monitoring the heat index in the city in the past several days.
Jabagat said the CDRRMD has been documenting a heat index of more than 30°C in the city for several days already.
He advised residents to plan their day to avoid being exposed to the heat unnecessarily.
“Always use an umbrella when walking in the city streets, especially at noon,” he said.
Jabagat said he was worried that the temperatures would continue to rise and the situation could worsen because of the threat of El Niño.
“We are still in the transition from the wet to dry season,” he said.
Although the city hasn’t had heat-related emergencies, Cagayan de Oro City Health Office chief Rachel Dilla reminded residents to take precautions.
“We advise people to keep themselves hydrated with balanced fluids containing electrolytes to prevent cramps and seizures,” she said, pointing out that heat exhaustion is considered a medical emergency.
Dr. Dilla added, “We should not expose ourselves to the sun for prolonged periods between 10 am and 3 pm when the heat index is at its highest. Individuals suffering from heatstroke should be removed from hot areas and given water and electrolytes if conscious. If unconscious, do not attempt to give water, but bring the person to a hospital.”
Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez, meanwhile, said more resilient and adaptive measures need to be employed as soon as possible to mitigate the devastating consequences of climate change in the country.
“I support the government’s action to activate a Task Force El Niño. There shall be a national task force to coordinate all efforts to address this problem,” Rodriguez told Rappler.
He said national agencies such as the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Climate Change Commission, and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council should also activate their task forces.
“The time to act is now. We should not wait until the damage to the environment and our natural resources becomes irreversible,” Rodriguez said.
He said his proposed Climate Change Emergency Declaration Act under House Bill No. 6385 has already been approved by the House Committee on Climate Change. – Rappler.com
Cong Corrales is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.
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