The National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST PHL) held the third National Climate Conference at the Traders Hotel last month, aiming to encourage government and public response to climate-related risks and disasters. Scientists, local government units (LGUs) and members of the media participated in the discussion of the latest findings on climate-related issues through academic research. This year, the current state of climate and disaster in the Philippines was laid out, including its past trends, projected changes, and their implications to risk and vulnerabilities of various sectors. The main goal of the conference was to incorporate science in addressing the future impacts of climate change on a local scale.
Climate Trends and Disaster Risk Reduction
Based on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is an observed trend of the warming of the atmosphere and ocean. Coupled with this is the increase of greenhouse gasses recorded in atmosphere, which PAGASA Deputy Administrative for Research and Development, Dr. Flaviana Hilario, stated was a clear indication of human influence on climate change. Its possible impacts are water shortage, and decrease in agricultural production and food security.
Aside from the 0.57-degree-Celsius increase in the annual mean temperature in atmosphere during the last 59 years, there was also an increase in the number of hot and warm nights while cold days and cold nights are decreasing and extreme rainfall events during the wet season. Based on PAGASA’s observation, tropical cyclones that entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) have become highly variable, but there is no indication of increase in the frequency. However, a slight increase in the number of tropical cyclones with maximum sustained winds of 150 kilometers per hour and above, which are classified under typhoon category, was exhibited during El Niño events from 1971 to 2010. Hilario adds that such information will benefit various sectors in hazard preparedness, especially in infrastructure vulnerability. Flood, Landslide and Storm Surges Maps are some of the projects of the Department of Science and Technology that can be utilized for planning purposes.
Aside from the Philippines’ perilous geographical location, which makes the country prone to weather disturbances, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, the increase in population also puts more people at risk. Since population has reached the 100-million mark, people are spilling over to the hazardous areas, building their homes along shorelines, which are prone to storm surges. According to Manila Observatory Associate Director for Research, Dr. Gemma Teresa Narisma, most tropical cyclones in the country are destructive and these could be even be more fatal with the population increase.
Cited as a prime example of disaster response was the Hinatuan Municipality in Surigao del Sur. Vice Mayor Cristina Camba and Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer Josephine Lapaciros shared how they were able to adapt to the changing climate through information acquired from PAGASA and other agencies. Through this and partnership with private sectors, the LGU was able to provide early warning devices and systems, allowing them to achieve a zero-casualty status when Typhoons Sendong and Pablo hit Mindanao in 2011 and 2012, respectively. This accomplishment earned the municipality the National Gawad KALASAG for Excellence on Disaster Risk Reduction Management and Humanitarian Assistance in 2013.