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Changing the game of climate change

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Caraga recently spearheaded the Caraga Regional Climate Change Summit in San Jose, Province of Dinagat Islands which was participated by the different government agencies, provincial and municipal local government units, stakeholders and volunteers, where programs and projects for climate change adaptation and mitigation were laid down. 

Participants of the Caraga Regional Climate Change Summit in San Jose, Province of Dinagat Islands. (Photo: PIA Caraga)

In its simplest concept, climate change is a long-term change in temperature and other characteristics of the atmosphere resulting in uncertain and unstable weather. This could be seen in the changes in how much rain a place usually gets in a year, or the climate of certain places at certain times of the year.  

As an archipelago in the Pacific, the Philippines experiences the effects of climate change through extreme weather events such as typhoons reaching Category 5, such as the case with Super Typhoon "Odette" which struck Caraga Region and other areas of Visayas Island two years ago. Further, the country’s southern island, Mindanao, once considered "typhoon-free" is now more frequently visited by typhoons.

The Provincial Capitol of Dinagat Islands after STY Odette ravaged the area on December 16, 2021.. (Photo: UNDP Philippines)

Signs and indications

The Feast of Candelaria is celebrated by Catholic devotees all over the world every February 2. In Caraga Region, people especially the old folks would wait for this festivity as it signals the end of the rainy season welcoming the summer with the famous line, “Ay Candelaria na, matapos na jud ang ulan (It's finally Candelaria, the rain is over).”

However, from December of last year 2022 up until April of this year, Caraga was on wet ground because of continuous rains brought by a series of shear lines and low-pressure areas brought by La Niña that affected the people and their lifestyle and properties. The Feast of Candelaria came but the rain was still there. In the entire first quarter, the weather report was on the priority list of the government and the general public.  

Climate change is the only answer to the recurring question on why heavy rains continued to pour even during the supposed summer season. 

To address this, a proactive step has been urgently considered by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Caraga, through the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), as chair of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Thematic Committee of the Caraga Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) to keep the public abreast on the unusual extension La Niña. 

Thereafter is the El Niño phenomenon which is characterized in the Philippines as unusually warmer than the average sea surface temperatures at the central and eastern equatorial Pacific.  This increase in air temperature and relative humidity can cause an increase in Heat Index.

Heat index, as defined, is what the temperature feels like to the human body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature. It serves as a measure to know how much heat the human body can handle before it becomes dangerous.

In the second quarter of this year, Butuan City hit almost half the boiling point in the heat index, consecutively recording the highest temperature nationwide at 48.  With increasing health concerns from students, parents, faculty and teachers brought by extreme heat, some public schools opted for blended learning once again with face-to-face and module learning scheduled alternately. Classroom engagement is also scheduled in the morning. Meanwhile, the employment sector is requested to consider contingency plans and ensure a safe and healthy work environment amidst the dangers posed by  El Niño. 

With this recent development of a weak El Niño over the Tropical Pacific, Engr. Ver Lancer D. Galanida, chief meteorological officer of the Department of Science and Technology- Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (DOST- PAGASA) in Butuan City gave value on self-monitoring and mindfulness of the daily weather updates shared in the different platforms of the agency. Disaster preparedness and resilience start with awareness of the weather. “So make it a habit to read the daily weather updates, this will save you and your loved ones,” said Engr. Galanida.

Advancing the game changers

“Climate change is upon us. Scientists are telling us that we are at the point of no return. The role of the government, really, is to cushion the impact of climate change,” said Climate Change Commission (CCC) Commissioner Albert P. Dela Cruz during the Caraga Regional Climate Change Summit.

CCC Commissioner Albert P. Dela Cruz gave emphasis on the whole-of-nation approach for climate change. (Photo: PIA Caraga)

Responding to these climate risks, the Philippine government has demonstrated leadership through a strong commitment to a climate policy and institutional reform agenda. In 2009, Republic Act 9729 or the Climate Change Act was created which mandates the mainstreaming of climate change considerations into government policy and planning. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is tasked to oversee the establishment and maintenance of the climate change information management system and network, including climate change risks, activities, and investments, in collaboration with other concerned national government agencies, institutions, and local government units.

One tangible step taken by the DENR, through the CCC, on climate change is the recent identification of the Province of Dinagat Islands as the location for the seven priority programs and projects ranging from water treatment systems, infrastructure, and research, which are hoped to transform the province as the “Silicon Valley” in research and development of the country.

Transforming a climate vulnerable Province of Dinagat Islands to be the next Silicon Valley of the country. ( Photo: Tripadvisor)

These programs and projects include Dinagat Islands Sustainable Agri-Fishery Development Program (DISAFDP) worth P44.5 million; Sustainable Watershed Management worth P40.5 million; and Enhanced Ecological Solid Waste and Management System amounting with a budget allocation of P427.7 million, involving the establishment of water desalination facility and solar- powered filtration system; climate change resilient evacuation center; climate change adaptation resource center; and the construction of seawall and typhoon barriers in the province. 

On a national scope is the recent allocation of P2.39 billion for the National Greening Program for a massive forest rehabilitation which covers a land area of 13,565 hectares; 7,249,642 seedlings to be planted; and 158,853 hectares to be maintained for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

These are works  in progress that require patience in time and momentum of project implementation. Climate change adaptation and mitigation becomes successful only through sustainability and projects, such as those pipelined in the Province of Dinagat Islands, will address specific goals long-term and will not materialize overnight. 

Taking action now

“The government cannot do it alone. We need the support of everyone including private individuals. That is what we call the ‘whole-of-nation approach.’ Kasi kapag dumating ulit si [Bagyong] Odette… lahat sapul sa hangin, lahat mababasa sa ulan, [If another Super Typhoon Odette will come once again, we will all be hit by its wind and drenched by the rain,” Dela Cruz emphasized.

The life and survival threat of climate change calls for everyone to make small individual contributions. Humans are born not as spectators in the fight against climate change, rather, they are duty bearers and force multipliers in the decades-long campaign.

What we can do as responsible citizens is to start with ourselves and take simple steps such as these three doable actions: save energy at home; Reduce, Reuse, Repair and Recycle; and above all, speak up.

At home, save energy by turning off unnecessary lights and unplugging unused appliances. These are easy to do and even children can accomplish these things.

The concept of reduce, reuse, repair and recycle has been aggressively campaigned by the government through Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. The act enforces all citizens to follow the proper waste segregation and, as much as possible, reduce waste at home, school and work and other institutions.

There is no other perfect time to speak up but now. We need to sound the alarm from where we are to the countryside, to the grassroots and across the globe, so we can have everyone’s commitment to execute individual contributions in the fight against climate change, regardless of age, gender, religion and outlook in life.

We cannot be passive because climate change is already here. The urgent message to everyone is loud and clear: do something and contribute now. (DMNR/RLE/PIA-Caraga)

About the Author

Venus Garcia

Information Officer V


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