The Philippines is currently ranked the fourth-most disaster-prone country in the world. Environmental catastrophes can be devastating, but there are ways to reduce the impacts of extreme weather.
Just a few years ago, the Philippines was hit by one disaster after another. In February 2006, a series of mudslides occurred in Southern Leyte after 10 days of heavy rain and a mild earthquake. One mudslide buried the entire village of Guinsaugon and killed more than 2,000 people, mostly children.
There was more to come. Typhoons, tropical storms, “super typhoons” - in 2006 these weather events in the Philippines killed thousands and injured more. Volcanic debris buried hundreds of homes and lives.
The geographic location and features of the Philippines make the country vulnerable to extreme weather events. But unjust economic, social and political systems and development that is stripping the country of natural resources make the situation worse for people living there.
Changing weather conditions in the Philippines are now threatening human life, cultural heritage and the country’s natural ecosystem.
"The weather has become so unpredictable," says Panglima Fernandez. Panglima (chieftain) Fernandez is a Palaw’on, an indigenous person from Palawan. "We've been experiencing very hot weather lately... The prolonged summer heat could dry up the cogon grasses in the upper portion of the mountain and lead to forest fire."
People on islands all over the Philippines, on both the highlands and the lowlands, are dependent on agriculture and fishing for their living. Recent climate changes threaten their way of life.
One farmer, Willie, reports: "The hot and cold seasons dictate when to plant and when to harvest. Usually, during the months of January to February the rains become more infrequent. The peak of the summer season is from March to May. But now, it seems that we’ve been experiencing more frequent and stronger rains from October to May."
"From 50 sacks I used to harvest in the previous years, I am now down to 35 sacks because the early rains have washed away flowering stalks of rice," he says. "These changing weather conditions dramatically affect our way of life."
Danilo Gonzales, the chief officer of the Palawan waterworks system, says: "Climate change could really exacerbate the threats to our fragile ecosystem… This narrow strip of island is rich in both land and marine resources. You damage the mountain, the effects would flow down to the sea, destroying everything on its path."
Locals communities that bear the brunt of climate change are usually the best placed to help come up with solutions. World Vision is working with communities in the Philippines and around the world to reduce the effects of climate change.
This was originally published on the 1st of September 2011.