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Destroyed houses in the Philippines
Image: DW/T.Kruchem

Climate change

Thomas Kruchem / act
February 21, 2014

Philippine climate activists say it's time industrialized nations took responsibility for the devastating impact of climate change on the developing world.


On 8. November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, which also goes by the name Yolanda struck Estancia, a small town in the north of the Philippine island Panay.

Hanna Martin and her family were able to survive by taking shelter with an uncle who lived in a concrete building on the edge of the city.

When she and her family came home, there was hardly anything left of their house. "The roof and the bamboo walls had been blown away," the 35-year-old recalls. "The furniture had become a pile of debris. And everything was wet - our clothes, the linen, our rice flour reserves."

She and her husband built a temporary hut on the foundations of their old house. An aid organization provided emergency relief and food within three days.

Paying for the mistakes of others

The Climate Change Congress of the Philippines carries out research on the impact of global warming on the Philippines, with its over 7,000 islands, and has found alarming results.

A destroyed fish factory in the Philippines.
Some 200 people lost their jobs when this fish factory was destroyedImage: DW/T.Kruchem

"The data clearly shows that Filipinos are paying for the problems that industrial nations caused in the past century," says Esteban Godilano from the NGO, saying the impact has already reached dramatic proportions.

"In 2011, we were the third most-affected country - after the small island republics Vanuatu and Tonga, which are much smaller than any of our provinces. But that was before almost half of our country was devastated by three powerful typhoons - Sindong, Pablo and now Yolanda, perhaps the strongest storm the earth has ever experienced with a wind speed of up to 315 kilometers per hour."

Because the storms are getting stronger and more frequent - Esteban Godilano says there were 24 typhoons last year compared to 18 15 years ago - much of the infrastructure must be rebuilt to withstand such winds. And the cost of this will be exorbitant.

In the past, typhoons tended to strike the north of the Philippines. Now the south is increasingly dealing with storms - for example the Visayas region and Mindanao, the archipelago's breadbasket, which has been destroyed twice in the past three years.

Who will pay for the damage to the coral reefs?

Global warming is also having a terrible impact on the ecosystem. "The rising sea temperature is damaging our coral reefs," says Godilano. "Our research shows that large parts of the corals are already dead. Yet, coral reefs are a breeding ground for fish; that's where they lay their eggs, where their young develop."

This will have a direct impact on the 14 million Filipinos who live on the coast, many of whom make a living from fishing. Moreover, with rising sea levels, their homes are likely to be swallowed up by the ocean in the not too distant future.

Flooded fields in Mindanao
Typhoons are becoming more frequent in Mindanao, the country's bread basketImage: DW/T.Kruchem

Coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass meadows protect the islands of the Philippines from the forces of the ocean and surges, reducing the effects natural disasters cause on land by up to 80 percent. The loss of these natural protective barriers due to climate change, however, will mean an increase in storm damage on land.

Godilano says it's time that industrial nations took responsibility. He recommends that they set up a fund to help poor developing nations cope with the devastating effects of climate change.

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