‘This is not God’s will’: Advocate warns of worse typhoons if climate change not addressed

Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 21 2021 01:17 PM

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MANILA – More devastating typhoons may come to the Philippines if climate change is not addressed, a climate policy expert said Tuesday, as the country reels from the effects of typhoon Odette.

“This is climate change already,” said Atty. Tony La Viña, associate director for climate policy at the Manila Observatory. “Meaning, [this is] what climate change means.”

“You look at this particular typhoon--and I think of course this is preliminary because we still have [to study] the extent of this--but this is the worst ever in terms of scope,” he stressed.

“Worse than Yolanda, not in terms of deaths, Yolanda had thousands of deaths, this one doesn’t seem to have thousands, maybe a few hundreds. But in terms of the scope of the destruction, as we see, as we are seeing now, Bohol, Cebu, Siargao and Surigao del Norte, parts of Negros Oriental, parts of Negros Occidental, parts of Palawan have been equally damaged by this,” he added.

“Here, the scope is, the extent is really wide and it’s gonna take years for them to rebuild. But see, this is climate change.”

“This is not God’s will, this is not divine providence. This is because of human actions. This is because we use coal, this is because we use oil, this is because we do not handle our waste properly, this is because our agriculture is not climate-friendly, this is because we cut trees. This is because of our infrastructure and the way we build roads in this country,” La Viña noted.

“And until that human action [continues], until we do not, in fact, act on climate the way we should act, then it will happen more often and it will even get worse the next time around,” he said.

La Viña said that the Philippines’ way of addressing climate change so far has been ‘dysfunctional.’

“We have a very dysfunctional system for climate change in the Philippines. I mean, because the Climate Change Act, unfortunately, well, you know, had good intentions and good principles, [but] the structure that it created, a commission headed by the president, really doesn’t work for a country like the Philippines.”

“Talagang nagkulang tayo,” the lawyer said. “And this is across--not being anti-Duterte, (former President Benigno) Aquino also had the same failures, I mean, and before that (former President Gloria) Arroyo also had the same failures on climate change, which is that we are inconsistent.”

La Viña said he was disappointed with the outcome of the recently concluded COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

Nearly 200 nations came together in Scotland in November to strike a deal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But current national emissions cutting plans, all told, would lead to 2.7C of heating, according to the United Nations. 

“That’s really not acceptable. You know what 2.7 means? It means Odette may be three to four times a year. In different parts of the Philippines,” the lawyer said.

“So 2.7 will mean--right now we’re averaging 20 storms--it could mean 30 to 40 storms a year. It could mean two or three Odettes, two or three Yolandas a year. How can we recover? Nobody can be that resilient. So we have to work hard.”

Going forward, La Viña said the government must no longer allow coal-fired power plants to be built in the country.

“You know, we allowed coal to be more than 50 percent of our energy supply. That’s wrong, now we have to dial back down and close down some of those coal power plants and not do anymore.”

“Not a single new plant should be built. Including those that have already been approved because that’s assisted suicide. To allow coal power plants in the Philippines is actually to kill ourselves,” he said.

He also said that it needs to be emphasized that coal can destroy the homes and lives of many Filipinos.

“Coal kills, coal destroys your houses, oil does the same thing,” he said.
He also stressed that climate change must now be an issue discussed by candidates in the 2022 elections.

“Well it has to be now the number one issue. It has to be. Unfortunately for this, except for Ka Leody and Walden Bello, I did not see any of our candidates make this their priority issue.”

While lauding presidential aspirants’ efforts to provide aid to Odette survivors, La Viña said he would like to ask them about their plans to help the Philippines deal with the ill effects of climate change.

“How do you rehabilitate? How do you reconstruct knowing that this will happen again? In five years, maybe even next year, maybe even next week, there’s no guarantee it will not happen again next week,” he said.

“So we need to ask hard questions. You know, about infrastructure, about ‘Build, Build, Build’. About our energy system. That’s what I would like to hear from the candidates. Will you stop a coal plant from being built? Will you stop highways like PAREX being built? Will you deal with mining?”

--ANC, 21 December 2021