Climate change has become a major concern, not only in the Philippines, but all over the globe. Through the past decades, it has claimed thousands of lives, polluted many cities, destroyed natural resources, caused economic drop, and even prompted conflicts. There is no doubt; this concern should be a priority.
We only have few more days before we cast our votes for the National Election. By now, some of you may already have presidential bets; but for those who are still undecided, take time to read this and ask yourself: “Am I voting for the right person?”
Top of the list
Each candidate has his or her own plan of action. As voters, we should also consider the presidentiables’ agenda for climate change and disaster preparedness. Why? Here are the main reasons:
1. Our country belongs to the V20.
The top 20 countries, which are most vulnerable to climate change impacts, also referred to as the “V20”, include Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Maldives, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Ghana, Nepal, East Timor, Barbados, Kenya, Tuvalu, Bhutan, Kiribati, Rwanda, Vanuatu, Costa Rica, Madagascar, Saint Lucia, Vietnam and yes, the Philippines.
These are low and middle-income, small and developing countries that usually experience the adverse effects of climate change, such as extreme drought and destructive typhoons.
2. We have a commitment.
In line with the celebration of Earth Day (April 22, 2016), the Philippines signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje represented the country in the covenant signing held in New York.
This marked our commitment to support the United Nations and other countries in fighting climate change by limiting the warming of the earth below 1.5 degrees Celsius. In a press release of the Climate Change Commission (CCC), it stated that the Philippines pledged a 70% emission reduction by 2030.
3. Philippines is renewable-rich.
During his visit to our country last March, Former US Vice President and Founder of Climate Reality Project, Al Gore, highlighted that the Philippines is rich in renewable energy, which is naturally regenerated or replenished over a short period of time. Some are derived directly from the sun like thermal or photochemical energy.
Other forms of renewable energy are wind, hydropower, geothermal and tidal.
Using renewable energy will help in combating the impacts of climate change because these do not produce greenhouse gases unlike fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, Oxfam has mentioned in one of their studies that the Philippines is the world’s second largest producer of geothermal power and has the largest potential for wind power in South-East Asia.
With these, our president-to-be should also know how to maximize our natural energy sources. Not only could this help reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, it could also create more jobs.
4. Earthquakes can hit us anytime.
Though volcanic activities and ground shaking are not directly associated to climate change, part of being a “green” candidate is being able to create stronger disaster preparedness plans. Aside from an average of 19 to 20 tropical cyclones each year, our country also needs to be prepared for earthquakes.
Unlike tropical cyclones, we cannot forecast when and where an earthquake will occur. It can strike any location, at any time. Being one of the countries situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is highly prone to strong quakes.
We will never forget the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that shook Central Visayas on October 2013. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) already warned that an earthquake with the same magnitude, now dubbed as “The Big One”, is possible in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
A Quick Look at the Presidentiables’ Agenda
Five candidates are vying to be next President of the Republic of the Philippines. What are their views on climate action and disaster preparedness?
• Establish a separate, full-time, cabinet-level disaster resilience and emergency management agency, which will serve as the focal agency for integrated disaster resilience, climate change adaptation and mitigation and emergency management.
• Provide technical assistance and share good practices in order to capacitate LGUs to integrate climate change and disaster risk reduction management plans into their respective local development plans.
• Make full use of the People’s Survival Fund and establish transparency and accountability mechanisms in the selection and monitoring of projects.
• Accelerate the exploration, development, and promotion of renewable energy sources in order to reduce harmful emissions.
• Support the modernization of disaster mitigation agencies to improve their forecast and monitoring capabilities following the passage of the PAGASA Modernization Bill.
• Clarify and provide guidelines on the roles of local government units and national government during disasters to avoid confusion and overlapping of responsibilities.
• Invest in productivity-enhancing infrastructure to boost agriculture.
• Invest in irrigation and water-impounding facilities in order to allow more planting cycles, and to minimize the impact of El Niño and La Niña.
• Finance programs that would expand the use of new seed varieties, and modern technology in order to increase farm yield.
• Invest in research and technology.
• Lead the creation of an independent disaster risk reduction and management agency to enhance the capacity of government and communities to prevent, mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from the impact of disasters.
• Invest in community-based disaster preparedness programs.
• Implement student-led disaster preparedness education in schools.
• Create citizen-led hazard mapping and risk reduction.
• Separate auditing of international aid.
• Amend EPIRA law.
• Review and reconsider the privatization of the energy industry under the EPIRA and see if it contradicts constitutional provisions on ownership of natural resources and Philippine obligations under the international law of human rights.
• Fast-track and wholeheartedly implement renewable energy policies.
• Support environmental protection.
• Reduce greenhouse gases to mitigate climate change.
• Explore natural gas and diversify country’s energy mix.
• Harness available energy sources in strict compliance with the highest standards of safety for communities and the environment to fuel the development of important sectors such as manufacturing, which can generate stable, reliable and long-term sources of income for Filipinos.
• Support EPIRA law.
• Raise people’s awareness and understanding on climate change.
• Pass the Sustainable Forest Management Act into law.
• Formulate policies/programs that would strengthen the national government and the resilience of local government units (LGUs) to address issues on climate change.
• Strengthen or reform the Building Code for disaster-resilient infrastructures.
• In schools, disaster mitigation and preparedness must be included in the educational curriculum.
• Secure financing schemes for climate change projects.
• Ensure the implementation of the Flood Management Master Plan for Metro Manila and surrounding areas.
• Amend Philippine environmental policy to institutionalize climate change adaptation measures, apart from the climate change law.
• Strictly implement environmental and land use laws. Food crop areas should be maintained.
• Develop a climate adaptation fund per region to enable adaptation in agriculture and food production, which are vulnerable to climate change.
• Implement climate-smart technologies, such as rainwater impoundment and collection regulations.
• Pursue a policy that will prevent the Philippines from being a significant contributor to greenhouse gases even as we industrialize.
RECAP: Presidential Debate
One of the main topics covered during the 2nd Presidential Debate held in Cebu was climate change. Poe, Roxas and Duterte shared their thoughts on it. (Santiago was not present)
Question: “Nag-commit po ang Pilipinas sa United Nations na babawasan natin ang polusyon na hanggang 70% by 2030. Pero inaprubahan ni Pangulong Aquino ang maraming coal-fired plants para sa energy security natin. Paano natin matutupad ang ating commitment sa UN habang tumataas naman ang dependence natin sa coal para sa ating energy security?”
(The Philippines committed to reduce emissions down to 70% by 2030. However, President Aquino still approved numerous coal-fired plants for our energy security. How can we ensure our commitment to UN when we are still dependent on coal?)
Poe: “…sa tingin ko ang una nating gawin ay ilikas ang 13 million six hundred na mga residente dun sa mga high risk areas. Yun ang una, prevention. Pangalawa, isipin natin ang mga magsasaka natin. (I think we have to evacuate those who are in high-risk areas. Prevention is priority. Next, we need to think about our farmers.)
“…drought ngayon, kailangan natin ang drought resistant na pananim para naman patuloy ang buhay nila. Kailangan tayo magkaroon ng mga dams, mga water entrapment facilities, mga flood control projects para naman maligtas natin ang ating mga kababayan. (We need drought-resistant plants for our farmers so they can sustain their livelihood. We also need dams, water-entrapment facilities and flood-control projects to ensure the safety of the people.)
Roxas: “Well, napakahalaga na simulan natin ang transition towards clean energy dahil tayo isa sa pinaka-tinatamaan ng epekto ng global warming… Importante na simulan natin ang pagtungo sa clean energy.” (It is very important to start transitioning towards clean energy because we are highly affected by global warming.)
“‘Pag ako’y naging pangulo, bibigyan ko ng insentiba yung natural gas, yung mga iba pang clean energy tulad ng geo, tulad ng hydro para yung ating energy mix, which right now is 50% coal and oil ay mabawasan ng sa ganon mas maraming malinis na energy ang gagamitin natin.” (If I become the president, I will give incentives to natural gas and other forms of clean energy such as geo and hydro. In that way, our energy mix, which is right now 50% coal and oil, will be lessened and more clean energy will be utilized.)
Duterte: “We only contribute a third of the footprints – carbon footprints, so very little. And yet, we are a growing country, we need to industrialize, we need energy. Ang sabi ko, susunod tayo,(I said we are going to cooperate), but you know even climate change – climate change does not have to be discussed. It is here. El Niño is the climate change. Kaya ning mga lupa mo maski saan-saan,(The lands in most areas), they are cracking up, even in Luzon. That’s pollution.
Your climate change is already there. So what we should do is to do remedial measures, pero huwag lang tayo, because we have noticed that those who are really into heavy industries are the first world countries.”
The Green Cards
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF– Philippines) posted on their Facebook account about the Green Score Cards from the Green Thumb Coalition. These results were from surveys, platforms and background of the candidates in terms of agriculture, biodiversity, climate, energy, and development issues.
Be a Green Voter!
The future of our planet lies on how our leaders protect the environment. Think, assess and choose your President carefully. It doesn’t matter what color your bet represents; let’s go for green agendas!
On the third week of April 2016, a series of massive earthquakes hit different parts of the world, killing more than 700 people. These raised a common question among Filipinos: Is the “Big One” about to happen in the country soon?
On April 14, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake shook the island of Kyushu in Southwest Japan. Unknown to many, this was just a foreshock of a bigger quake.
On a Friday morning, April 15, a massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Kumamoto in the Kyushu Region killing 48 people. More than 680 aftershocks were recorded since the April 14 foreshock—of these, 89 registered at magnitude 4 or more on Japan’s intensity scale.
As of posting, the incident left three persons missing, about 3,000 wounded, and nearly 100,000 people in evacuation centers in Kyushu. The quake damaged homes, schools, commercial buildings and roads. Meanwhile, car company plants of Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Daihatsu in Kyushu have also halted production due to a shortage of production components as a result of damaged facilities and assembly equipment.
A day after the destructive earthquake in Japan, a stronger 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Ecuador, a country located in the northwest part of South America.
Considered as Ecuador’s worst quake in nearly seven decades, the quake killed 654 people, injured 16,600 and left 58 others unaccounted for. In a statement over the weekend, Ecuador President Rafael Correa said that estimated damages are at $3 billion. More than 700 aftershocks continued to shake the country since the major quake.
Days prior and after these major quakes, strong tremors were also monitored in some parts of the world including Afghanistan (magnitude 6.6, April 10); Vanuatu (magnitude 6.9, April 14) Guatemala (magnitude 6.2, April 15); Myanmar (magnitude 6.9, April 13); and Tonga (magnitude 5.8, April 17).
WERE THE JAPAN AND ECUADOR QUAKES RELATED?
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), no research has been done to prove that the two occurrences in Japan and Ecuador quakes are connected.
“It was one day after the Ecuador earthquake and two days after the Japanese earthquake… usually, we don’t think earthquakes are connected across the ocean,” said USGS geologist Paul Caruso in an interview with CNN International.
These two countries are also miles apart. Specifically, the distance between Japan and Ecuador is 15,445 kilometers.
WILL THE BIG ONE FOLLOW IN THE PH?
The recent earthquakes in our neighboring countries have raised the question from some Filipinos: Will a massive earthquake hit the country soon?
Though it’s true that Japan and Ecuador are thousands of kilometers apart, these countries have one thing in common with the Philippines: they all fall within the Pacific Ring of Fire.
The Ring of Fire is a horseshoe-shaped area in the Pacific border, described as a string of volcanoes and sites of seismic activities, or earthquakes.
On April 14, the same day when a 6.2 magnitude foreshock hit Japan, a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck Baliguian, Zamboanga Del Norte. As of press date, this has been the strongest quake to hit the Philippines this month. According to the Zamboanga City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, the incident injured three people and damaged four houses in Barangay Sinunoc.
However, in an interview with Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology and Volcanology (Phivolcs) Director Renato Solidum Jr., he debunked beliefs that quakes around the world indicate an impending tremor in the country: “Hindi ito mga indikasyon, kung ang pag-uusapan ay lindol sa iba’t ibang mga bansa. Ang pagkakaroon ng malakas na paglindol ay possible naman talaga dito sa ating bansa.”
(Quakes are always possible in the Philippines, but their occurrences in other parts of the world are not indicators that a tremor will also happen in the country.)
“Sa nakalipas na apat na raang taon, nagkaroon na ng siyamnapu’t na destructive earthquakes. At posible pang mangyari sa mga susunod na panahon. Kaya lang, wala pa tayong masasabi kung kelan talaga mangyayari ito. Wala pang nakakapag-predict ng earthquake, na magsasabi sa ’tin ng oras, ng araw, at ng magnitude ng earthquake na posibleng mangyari. Pero ang importante, alam natin ang posibleng mangyaring mga lindol, pwede natin malaman kung gaano kalakas o kung gaano pwedeng mangyari’t pwedeng paghandaan.”
(In the past 400 years, 90 destructive earthquakes were recorded, which took place at a time and day no one was able to predict. Although these events remain unpredictable, what is important is that we know the possible strength and impacts of earthquakes. Hence, we can prepare.)
Meanwhile, to intensify community preparedness and the local government’s commitment, the National Simultaneous Earthquake Drill was held last April 21, a week after the major earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador occurred.
A ceremonial launch was conducted at Clark Airbase in Pampanga, which was designated as the government’s headquarters in case the “Big One” happened in Metro Manila and nearby places, where a “very ripe” West Valley Fault is located.
The West Valley Fault has a 100-kilometer length, crossing Rizal, Marikina, Quezon City, Pasig, Makati, Taguig, Muntinlupa and Laguna. Thirty five percent of the population inhabiting the said areas live right above this fault line.
While earthquakes remain unpredictable and inevitable, preparedness also remains as a salient factor in spelling the difference between life and death.
“Ang paghahanda po sa lindol ay hindi madali. Napakaraming gagawin. Hindi ‘yan tulad ng bagyo. Lahat nakakapagbigay ng babala at pwedeng maghanda ang mga tao bago dumating ang mga ito. Ang mga paglindol ay biglaan kaya ang ating pagreresponde ay mabilis, angkop. Depende sa konteksto kung nasaan ka. Kaya dapat ang ating aksyon pag lilindol na ay mabilisan, tama at mangyayari lamang ito kung ang ating pagsasanay ay madalas,” said Solidum.
(Earthquake preparedness is complex. It is not like storms that can be predicted and prepared for. Earthquakes can occur anytime without warning. Thus, actions need to be quick, accurate, and within context. These things can only be done with frequent drills and preparedness measures.)
REFERENCES AND PHOTOS:
Though summer vacations are all about having fun under the sun, travelers must take caution to avoid accidents and sicknesses. The best way to be prepared for small emergencies is by packing a travel kit filled with the following things:
• Bottled water – This can be used for instant hydration, taking medicines, and also for sanitation.
• Portable flashlight – With the imminent power shortage this summer, a portable flashlight can be your best friend. It’s a handy tool when you’re lost and finding your way in the dark.
• Whistle – When you find yourself detached from the tour group, a whistle is an important tool in bringing attention to yourself, instead of shouting yourself hoarse. It can also alert others to life-threatening instances, such as an intruder in your room.
• Rubbing Alcohol – This can be used to disinfect hands before eating and for cleaning wounds.
• Wet wipes- For a quick, refreshing break, swipe on some wet wipes to cool down your body. It can also be used to clean surfaces and parts of your body.
• Insect repellant- The Dengue and Zika Viruses are still lurking around, so slap on some insect repellant to drive those dangerous mosquitoes away.
• Thermometer- Because fever can strike anytime, anywhere, it’s best to equip yourself with a digital thermometer so you can monitor your health.
• Sunblock with SPF 30- Avoid sunburn and even skin cancer by applying sunblock before going out.
• Paracetamol for fever
• Antihistamine for allergy attacks
• Antacids for heart burn
For Cuts and wounds:
• adhesive bandages
• antiseptic cream
Always remember that instead of self-medication, it’s best to consult a doctor. Stay safe and healthy while enjoying your vacation!
Inventor and Physicist Nikola Tesla once said, “I don’t care that they stole my idea. I care that they don’t have any of their own.”
These words, uttered by one of the world’s most brilliant minds during the 18th century, still hold true today when all sorts of creative work and ideas are freely available on the internet.
Nowadays, plagiarism is a crime that has become much easier to commit. But how do you protect your works from thieves? The government has agencies that aim to protect your original work.
Intellectual Property (IP) refers to any creation or product of the human mind. It can be an invention, an original design, a practical application of a good idea, and a mark of ownership such as a business trademark, or works of literature and other artistic endeavors.
Annually, World Intellectual Property Day is observed across the globe every 26th of April. The event was established by the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2000 to raise awareness of how patents, copyrights, trademarks, and designs impact our daily lives.
HOW TO PROTECT INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
In our country, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) is the lead agency responsible for handling the registration and conflict resolution of intellectual property rights.
On its website, the IPOPHL identified these following as scopes of IP: (1) copyrights and related marks; (2) trademarks and service marks; (3) geographical indications; (4) industrial designs; (5) patents; (6) lay-out designs of integrated circuits; and (7) protection of undisclosed information.
Among the abovementioned, the most widely known are patents, copyrights, and trademarks.
This is a grant issued by the government through the IPOPHL. It is an exclusive right granted to a product, process or an improvement of a product or process which is new, inventive and useful. This exclusive right gives the inventor the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the product of his invention during the life of the patent.
A patent has a term of protection of twenty (20) years providing an inventor significant commercial gain. In return, the patent owner must share the full description of the invention.
This is a form of intellectual property, which protects the rights of authors and creators of literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays; newspaper articles; films and television programs; letters; artistic works including paintings, sculptures, drawing and photographs; architecture; computer programs; and advertisements, maps and technical drawings.
Application for copyright may also be done at the National Library of the Philippines. Its term of protection of works covers the lifetime of the author and fifty (50) years after his death.
A trademark differentiates goods and services from each other. This is also an important marketing tool that may come in the form of a word, a group of words, sign, symbol, logo, or a combination of any of these.
A trademark is effective in product recall. When utilized properly, a trademark can become the most valuable business asset of an enterprise.
To know more about IPOPHL, you may go to their website www.ipophil.gov.ph, call them through 238-6300, or visit their office at 28 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Hill Town Center, Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.
The National Library of the Philippines can be reached through http://web.nlp.gov.ph/, 336-7200, or in their office at T.M. Kalaw Street, Ermita, Manila.
As temperatures go higher and the weather gets warmer, we should be more prepared for the possible impacts of extreme heat. Part of being prepared is being aware and knowledgeable. Here are the top 3 things we, Filipinos, should know about the term heat index:
1. It’s how you feel.
Heat index, also known as human discomfort index, determines how your body perceives the temperature. Its two factors are air temperature and relative humidity.
Air temperature is what weather instruments measure, while relative humidity is the amount of moisture or water vapor in the air. It’s the reason why we get that “malagkit” feeling during hot days.
According to PAGASA Weather Forecaster Shelly Ignacio, a higher temperature and a high relative humidity will give a high heat index, making the body feels warmer.
The rate at which a person sweats depends on how much water is in the air. Sweat evaporates more quickly on dry days than humid days. On humid days, the air is saturated with moisture, resulting to a slower evaporation. A human body feels hotter in high humidity because sweat, the body’s natural cooling system, evaporates more slowly.
2. Heat index can be fatal.
In extreme cases, high heat indices can result to fatigue, heat cramps and heat stroke. If the heat index reaches 27 to 32 degrees Celsius, fatigue is possible, while prolonged exposure or activity can result to heat cramps.
Once heat index elevates to 32 to 41 degrees Celsius, extreme caution is needed due to possible heat cramps and heat exhaustion. The danger level begins when the heat index climbs to 41 to 54 degrees Celsius or more. In these cases, heat strokes, which are extremely hazardous, are more likely to occur.
The Department of Health (DOH) defines heat stroke as the most severe form of heat illness. This occurs when the body overheats and cannot cool down.
Signs and symptoms include warm flushed skin, feeling faint, dizziness, weakness, headache, high fever reaching 41 degrees Celsius, rapid heartbeat, convulsion, and sometimes, a patient may become unconscious.
To prevent heat stroke, take note of these tips:
– Stay indoors as much as possible.
– Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing. PAGASA explains that light colors will reflect the sun’s energy.
– Regularly drink plenty of water.
– Avoid drinking liquor because this dehydrates the body.
– Eat small but frequent meals. Avoid eating food with high protein content as these can increase metabolic heat.
3. Heat index is different from heat wave.
Some may think that heat wave and heat index are the same, but they’re not. Heat wave occurs when there is a prolonged period of extremely hot days.
PAGASA Weather Forecaster Meno Mendoza explains, “Mayroong sinusunod na criteria para dito, kailangan makapagtala tayo ng higit sa limang centigrade na above the normal na temperatura sa loob ng limang magkakasunod na araw (To declare a heat wave, we need to record a 5-degree increase in the normal temperature within 5 consecutive days.)” He added that heat wave has not yet occurred in Philippine history.
In related news, an intense heat wave is currently affecting the southern and eastern part of India. The death toll increased to more than 160. The Indian government are also concerned that more than 300 million people may be threatened by extreme drought and water shortage due to soaring temperatures. Last year, India’s heat wave claimed more than 2,000 lives.
Department of Health
On April 22, Panahon TV received recognition from the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and the Department of Foreign Affairs Overseas Voting Secretariat (DFA-OVS) for its helpful contribution in promoting the overseas Filipino’s right to vote.
The show produced instructional videos on overseas voter registration and reactivation in 2015, which were used by Philippine consulates, embassies and missions in the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Africa. These public service announcements helped the COMELEC and DFA-OVS in surpassing the one million mark of Active Overseas Voters (AOV), reaching 1.37 million for this year’s national elections. According to the DFA-OVS, it was the first time in the country’s history that registered overseas voters reached more than a million.
Panahon TV also created a manual that contained election guidelines sent with the voting packet to overseas Filipinos who will vote via post. The program also produced instructional videos educating Filipinos abroad on the different modes of overseas voting.
Dubbed as modern heroes and today’s game changers, active overseas voters began to vote last April 9, a process which would last 30 days as they chose their next President, Vice President, 12 senators and a party list.
As of April 22, 2.3% already finished voting in the Americas, 13.88% in Asia and the Pacific, 8.66% in Europe, and 10.42% in Middle East and Africa, tallying a total of a 9.46% turnout in the 1,376,067 active overseas voters. Ballots submitted to the polling centers on May 9, 2016 later than 5:00 PM in Philippine Standard Time will not be casted.
Mount Apo in Davao, and Mounts Kitanglad and Kalatungan in Bukidnon are some of the mountains in the country that recently suffered from forest fires worsened by the El Niño phenomenon.
While the Mt. Apo fire started because of a bonfire left behind by trekkers, the blaze in Mt. Kitanglad was caused by grassfire, which spread to nearby forests and six other mountains that were part of the mountain range. According to DENR-10 Assistant Regional Director Felix Mirasol, villagers were “exposed to the high risk of boulders and glowing embers falling on them.”
Due to the series of wildfire outbreaks, Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje called all Protected Area Manangement Boards (PAMBs) across the country to prioritize the prevention of forest fires and ensure the nation’s biodiversity and habitat protection.
Days after the blaze started, the City Government of Kidapawan ordered the closure of Mt. Apo for a period of 3-5 years for rehabilitation.
“We have to sacrifice in closing the annual climb as I cannot sacrifice Mt. Apo that has served as landmark for greatness for centuries through its rich natural resources,” Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista said.
Meanwhile, at least P35 million is needed for the rehabilitation of Kitanglad, according to a DENR- Northern Mindanao official. As of press date, the said mountains are also closed from the public.
Forest fires and El Niño
Though majority of wildfires are caused by human activities, El Niño still has something to do with their frequency and severity. As temperatures continue to rise and the amount of precipitation lessens, fires tends to spread more easily.
In a span of few weeks, we have seen how forest fire incidents have increased. If reduced rainfall prevails, this could lead to more forest fires that may be prolonged due to the soil’s lack of moisture.
The usual Hot and Dry Season is now being aggravated by the El Niño. Once a blaze begins in the forest—whether it is naturally caused by lightning or humans— it may get more intense within a longer period.
Studies show that the increasingly hot and dry climate has led to a worsening of wildfires across the globe. But in turn, these forest fires have also become contributors to climate change.
Aside from triggering air pollution, which threatens the health and lives of nearby individuals, forest fires eliminate trees and other plants that absorb carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases that stimulate climate change.
The decrease in the number of trees also poses danger in the next few months, where the onset of the Rainy Season is expected. This increases the risk of flash floods due to the loss of plant life and the inability of the burned soil to absorb moisture.
Based on the latest data from PAGASA, dry days will remain for almost the entire April. A large portion of the archipelago may experience more than 20 days of less than 1-millimeter of rainfall. Hence, if more forest fire incidents occur, these will be more difficult to control.
PAGASA also stated that the strong El Niño is expected to weaken and will likely reach neutral levels in the middle of the year, from the months of May to July. However, warmer than average temperatures may continue during the transition.
Saving our Summits
So what can you do to save our mountains?
To begin with, you and your hiking buddies can join the 3rd National Mountain Clean-up Day that will take place on June 4, 2016.
In his website, Gideon Lasco, author of renowned hiking blog “Pinoy Mountaineer” announced that 23 teams have already signed up for the event. As of April 11, mountains included in the clean-up are the following: Romelo (Laguna), Magsanga (Leyte), Pamitinan (Rizal), Binacayan (Rizal), Daraitan (Rizal), Talinis (Negros Oriental), Batulao (Batangas), Gulugod Baboy (Batangas), Tagapo (Rizal), Daguldol (Bagtangas), Sirao (Cebu), Babatngon (Leyte), Malipunyo (Batangas), Tibig (Batangas) and Sembrano (Rizal) as well as the Minalungao National Park (Nueva Ecija), Ampucao Ridge (Benguet) and Cansomoroy Peak (Cebu).
Meanwhile, the Davao Regional Incident Management Team, who spearheaded the operation in extinguishing the Mt. Apo fire, invited the public to learn more about their technique by posting on its Facebook page. “This incident has been dealt with using the Incident Management System (ICS). We enjoin everyone to be trained in using the Incident Command System for more organized and streamlined response operations in future incidents and planned events.”
Lastly, here are a few reminders from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines on how mountaineers and travelers can live by the Leave No Trace (LNT) Principles:
Plan ahead and prepare. Be familiar with the place, people, and the most environment-friendly way of reaching your destination.
Travel and camp on durable grounds. Do not walk on places not made for human transit as trampling on vegetation can greatly alter an area.
Dispose of waste properly. Garbage does not belong in forests, beaches or summits. Whatever you bring to a place, make sure to bring all of it back home with you.
Leave what you find. Resist the temptation to take home a “souvenir” and leave natural resources for others to appreciate. Always remember to keep the environment as pristine as possible.
Minimize campfire impacts. Refrain from creating a campfire, but if absolutely necessary, only set it up on an existing pit to reduce damage to the area.
Respect wildlife. Refrain from playing, taunting, feeding or abusing local wildlife.
Be considerate of other visitors. How would you feel if the group before you completely littered your destination? This will kill the experience for you; so remember to not do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.
PAGASA – DOST
Rising temperatures, sweltering heat, and that sticky feeling – there’s no doubt that we’re already experiencing tag-init! To help you understand those weather reports better, here are some of the meteorological terms that you will often encounter this season:
1. DRY SEASON
Technically, we do not have “summer”. The Philippines, being a tropical country, has only two official seasons – wet and dry. Summer is experienced in temperate regions with four seasons. In our country, Dry season or tag-init is the equivalent of summer.
These are warm and humid winds coming from the Pacific Ocean, which usually affect the eastern section of the country. However, since warm air or heat is a major factor for cloud formation, Easterlies can also generate isolated thunderstorms, mostly in the afternoon or evening.
3. RIDGE OF HPA
“Ridge” refers to the extended part of a High Pressure Area or an anticyclone. Unlike a Low Pressure Area, this indicates an area where the atmospheric pressure is higher than its surroundings.
Formation of clouds is usually suppressed, thus, less chance of rains. Fair weather is typically experienced when a Ridge of High Pressure Area extends over the archipelago.
4. GENERALLY FAIR WEATHER
Many people still get confused when they hear this. Generally fair weather means partly cloudy to cloudy skies with chances of isolated rain showers or thunderstorms. Less than half of the day will be cloudy, but rains are still possible, depending on the prevailing weather system.
On the other hand, “isolated” means localized. This means that it may be raining in your place, but not in the nearby areas. It happens when clouds are scattered in different parts of the atmosphere.
5. AIR TEMPERATURE
Air temperature is determined by using a weather instrument, commonly a thermometer. Also termed as “surface temperature”, it is obtained when a thermometer is exposed to the air but is sheltered from direct sun exposure.
Humidity is the amount of water vapor or moisture in the air. It can make high temperatures even more unbearable, often with a moist or “malagkit” feeling. Humidity is an important factor that affects the weather and climate as well.
7. HEAT INDEX
Also called as “human discomfort index”, heat index refers to the temperature obtained from the high air temperature and relative humidity. It also describes how the human body perceives the heat or the warm weather.
PAGASA says full exposure to sunlight may increase the heat index by 9 degrees Celsius. PAGASA Weather Forecaster Aldczar Aurelio says the heat index is always higher than the actual air temperature. High heat indices could lead to fatigue, heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Despite the fact that we are already in Tag-init Season, we may still experience rains brought by thunderstorms. Most people get confused when a downpour occurs after hours of scorching heat.
According to Former US Vice President Al Gore, also the founder of the Climate Reality Project, warmer air holds more moisture. Heat also speeds up the evaporation, bringing more clouds, which could later dump moderate to heavy rains.
During a thunderstorm, lightning and thunder also occur, along with gusty winds. Thunderstorms usually occur in the afternoon or evening, which can last for 1 to 2 hours.
9. EL NIÑO
El Niño is a climatic condition wherein an unusual increase in sea surface temperature (SST) or warming of the ocean is observed. In the Philippines, it mostly affects the agricultural sector due to reduced rainfall and warmer weather.
PAGASA says the prevailing El Niño may also have an effect on the current Hot and Dry season. Temperatures may continue to rise, and the duration of tag-init may be prolonged as well.
10. TROPICAL CYCLONE
Tropical cyclone is the general term for a “bagyo,” which starts out from a cloud cluster that develops into a Low Pressure Area (LPA), which has an atmospheric pressure lower than its surrounding locations.
One common misconception during tag-init is that it’s not normal to have a Tropical Cyclone. Every month, there is a chance for a Tropical Cyclone to enter or develop within the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR).
In fact, we monitored “Bagyong Chedeng” just last year and it coincided with the observance of the Holy Week. Chedeng intensified as a Typhoon and even made landfall in Isabela.
This April, the average number of tropical cyclone is 0 or 1. When it comes to the track, it may make landfall or may re-curve northward away from the landmass.
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By Amor Larrosa and Desserie Dionio, Panahon TV Reporters
Gunshots echoed as protesters hurled stones against the police. Blasts of water cannons were directed toward rallyists, who ran for their lives amidst deafening screams. According to reports, such was the scene that unfolded in Kidapawan in Cotabato that took the media by storm on the first day of April – an incident that would later be tagged by others as “Bigas, Hindi Bala.”
On March 29, 500 El Niño-stricken farmers and agricultural workers staged a rally in front of the National Food Authority (NFA) in Kidapawan City to ask the government for rice rations and aid after the El Niño had dried up their crops, leaving them penniless, in debt and hungry.
The local government agreed to talk to the farmers, but on March 30, their numbers rose to 6,000, allowing them to occupy the highway. A couple of days later, the event led to a violent dispersal, killing two farmers and one civilian, with more than a hundred protesters and members of the police wounded, and 80 farmers missing.
TWO SIDES OF THE COIN
Last April 7, the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights held a hearing in Davao City as some of farmers who were still recovering from injuries could not travel to Manila.
During the session, a farmer named Arlyn Oti Aman recalled how she, along with colleagues, were treated violently. “We went here to ask for food, but they looked upon us as like dogs, like animals.”
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) claimed that they have proof that the demonstrators initiated the violence. North Cotabato Chief Police Senior Supt. Alexander Tagum said that maximum tolerance was implemented during the outbreak of violence. He also showed an aerial video of the incident showing that cops were not raising their batons.
There are always two sides to every story, but what’s certain is that one of the factors that sparked the Kidapawan violence is the El Niño. This phenomenon aggravated the Dry Season in Mindanao, threatening food security.
WHAT IS EL NIÑO?
El Niño is characterized by the unusual warming of the ocean or the unusual rise in sea surface temperature (SST). According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the term El Niño was originally recognized by fishermen off the coast of South America as the appearance of uncommon warm water in the Pacific Ocean.
“El Niño” is also a Spanish term meaning “Little Boy” or “Christ child” because this phenomenon usually arrives around Christmas.
As early as 2014, PAGASA warned the public about the possible threat of El Niño, which was expected to bring below-normal rainfall patterns and higher air temperatures. Though the average number of tropical cyclones could still be normal, PAGASA stated that the El Niño could affect the cyclones’ movement and intensity, causing them to be stronger and more erratic.
EL NIÑO SETS IN
On March 11, 2015, PAGASA confirmed the ongoing El Niño in a press statement.
In the same month, the Dry Spell started to affect farmlands and water sources in Kidapawan City. The veterinary office in the city also reported deaths of hogs and cows because of the severe heat. The city office also received reports that some farm animals had weakened, possibly due to heat stroke.
After enduring the effects of El Niño for months, North Cotabato was placed under a state of calamity on January 2016. Thousands of hectares of farmlands and millions of crops like rice, corn, cacao, and other high-value crops were affected.
Provinces that are vulnerable to the effects of El Niño are mostly in Mindanao, mainly because of its location. According to PAGASA-Climate Monitoring and Prediction Section (CLIMPS) Chief Mr. Anthony Lucero, areas which are at the nearest distance from the equator normally experience the highest temperatures and least precipitation.
“Kapag kasi may El Niño, nagkakaroon ng reversal of winds—5 degrees north and 5 degrees south of equator. Humihina ‘yung effect ng Easterlies pagdating sa part na ‘yun. So walang moisture, wala ring ulan,” Lucero said.
This April, North Cotabato remains to be on the list of areas that are more likely to experience drought. Drought is defined by three consecutive months of way-below normal rainfall condition, wherein the average rainfall is reduced by 60%.
WERE WE PREPARED FOR EL NIÑO?
In the Senate Committee hearing, Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño Mendoza stressed that the provincial government took El Niño-mitigating measures after being warned by PAGASA.
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala belied reports that farmers in Mindanao have become hungry because of the government’s failure to prepare for El Niño. According to Alcala, when PAGASA declared a mild El Niño, the DA immediately provided P2.666 billion worth of mitigation assistance as early as 2015. He also said that P979.9 million worth of assistance was released from January to March 2016, including the provision of water pumps.
According to Alcala, DA’s projection of palay harvest loss due to El Niño for 2016 to date is 970,000 metric tons; “But the actual loss was 203,000 metric tons, meaning that the government has implemented the necessary interventions.”
From April to July this year, DA targets to distribute a total of 89,260 bags of rice varieties and seeds; 80,000 kilograms of soil ameliorant/zinc sulphate; and 5,000 bags of organic fertilizer for distribution to affected farmers.
As early as January, Pasig City Representative Roman Romulo called for the administration to disclose how it intended to spend the multimillion-peso budget for El Niño mitigation.
Likewise, in his statement during the hearing, Majority Floor Leader Alan Peter Cayetano condemned the administration for its failure to immediately release funds to mitigate the effects of El Niño.
“Enough of excuses and lies: we actually have P45 billion worth of funds in 2016 that may be used for the projects that will curb the impact of this crisis. If the Palace wanted to resolve this, they can… why are there so many farmers who are still starving and facing poverty?” said Cayetano.
EL NIÑO AND CLIMATE CHANGE
In an interview with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Atty. Gia Ibay said climate change does not cause El Niño, but the frequency of El Niño occurrence may be linked to it.
Lucero affirms this, saying it is a common misconception that El Niño is caused by climate change. He added that though El Niño is a natural occurrence, climate change may worsen its effects.
“Sa nakikita natin in the recent years, dumadami at dumadalas ang pagkakaroon ng disasters dahil sa climate change – kasama dun ‘yung drought. Ang climate change, connected sa pagtaas ng temperatura ng mundo. So kapag nagkaroon ng El Niño, lumalala ang effect. Mas mainit at lalong nagkukulang sa ulan,” Lucero explained.
According to Lucero, the current El Niño is still categorized as “strong” but is expected to weaken in the next few months. Probably by the end of July, our country may experience a “neutral” climatic condition.
AWARENESS + PREPAREDNESS
To date, the PNP has started its own inquiry on the Kidapawan dispersal, but there are calls for the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a parallel probe to ensure an impartial and independent investigation.
Meanwhile, in Senator Loren Legarda’s press release, she said that this incident would not have happened if necessary interventions addressed the impact of El Niño on farmers and communities.
“…the government can no longer deny the link between climate change and development. What we saw is just one of the human faces of climate change and our farmers, who did not cause this phenomenon, is among the direct victims of its impacts,” Legarda stated.
With the increasing frequency of El Niño and extreme weather events, it is evident that we are already facing a serious challenge. We have all been warned about the development of an El Niño phenomenon, but awareness is not enough without preparedness. It is the state’s responsibility to see to it that measures are effectively carried out from planning to implementation, making sure that the very backbone of the country’s food security—the farmers—benefit from them.
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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)