Philippines is the Vatican of disasters: Yumul

By David Dizon,

Posted at Oct 03 2011 01:31 PM | Updated as of Oct 03 2011 09:44 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines must brace for more devastating typhoons and hotter dry seasons due to the effects of the climate change, Science and Technology Undersecretary Graciano Yumul said Monday.

Philippines is the Vatican of disasters: Yumul 1
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Speaking on ANC's "Headstart," Yumul said a PAGASA-Department of Science and Technology (DOST) 20- to 30-year climate model showed that by the year 2020, the wet season in the Philippines will be wetter and the dry season will be drier.

"In 2050, mas malala. Yung tuyo mas magiging tuyo at basa mas magiging basa. So these things - Pedring, Quiel, Ondoy - this will be the norm. This will be normal thing rather than the abnormal thing...Things have really changed, the climate has really changed," he said.

The Philippines was racked by two typhoons last week, killing at least 58 people and causing P8.8 billion worth of damage to infrastructure.

Yumul said he expects another two to five typhoons to hit the country until December. Most of the typhoons will make landfall, he added.

The science undersecretary also lamented the enormous economic effect of the yearly typhoons.

"Everybody was saying after Ondoy, we learned something. Tapos, na-Pedring tayo, What is really bad is we always start from scratch. Pedring is P6.6 billion [damage], which should have been used for schools, medicine and infrastructure. Now we have to use it for rehabilitation, reconstruction and repair, Lagi na lang tayong step 1. There is no sustainable development," he said.

He added: "The Philippines is the Vatican of disasters."

Yumul said the national government has already crafted a national climate change adaptation plan. However, he said the tasks of disaster risk management and climate change should be devolved to the communities.

"Adaptation is the way to go. Hindi pwede relocation dahil massive relocation ang mangyayari. In Zamboanga City, people are living on houses on stilts. In the Netherlands, they have higher houses and dikes," he said.

Yumul said one change being done by PAGASA would be the release of "rainfall intensity warnings" over and above the normal storm signals. He said the rainfall intensity would allow people to gauge if their areas will be affected by floods.

He said that after the onslaught of Pedring, he will push for the construction of breakwaters and a stronger seawall on Roxas Boulevard.

'Natural, man-made' causes blamed for flood

Yumul, meanwhile, said natural and man-made causes could be blamed for the devastating floods that hit Calumpit and other towns in Bulacan and Pampanga.

He said Calumpit town is at the confluence of the Pampanga and Angat Rivers, which both overflowed at the height of typhoon Pedring.

"Nag over-flow ang river tapos Calumpit ang nasa gitna so ganun ang result. Lampas tao (ang baha)," he said.

Yumul denied reports that the release of water from the Angat and Ipo Dams caused the flooding in Calumpit and other Bulacan towns.

He said the Pampanga watershed received 289mm of rain during Pedring, while the Angat watershed received 118mm of rain. "Ang ibig sabihin nun, it's just too much water and there was no control," he said.

The science undersecretary said topography and geology also factor in on the flooding. He said that aside from Calumpit being a catchbasin of the 2 rivers, the ground and rocks in the area had been saturated by heavy rainfall.

"It is a combination of man-made and natural. It is increased precipitation because of climate change. At the same time, if the river channel is silted, siltation is due to man's activities. Tapos wala kang forest, watershed, bawas na ang puno. Tapos may harang pa yung daanan ng tubig, you have fishpens or whatever. Then it's really a long list of factors leading to massive flooding," he said.

Yumul said there is also a study that showed lands in Pampanga ang Bulacan are sinking due to overextraction of groundwater. He said the unchecked use of deep wells by houses and industries is taking a toll on natural aquifers.

"If the aquifer is not replenished, the ground will subside. When the flood comes in, it becomes deeper. The only solution is to regulate water extraction," he said.