By Bradley Cardozo

On October 19, 2016, Super Typhoon Lawin wrought widespread devastation to infrastructures and agriculture in northern Luzon, displacing tens of thousands of people and killing eight while causing billions of pesos in damage. A Category 5 super typhoon with sustained wind speeds reaching 270 km/h, Lawin became the most powerful hurricane to hit the Philippines since Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

Widespread Damages

The wreckage remains evident across northern Luzon, particularly in the provinces of Cagayan and Isabela. The super typhoon damaged more than 60,000 homes, with 14,000 being totally destroyed. In Tuguegarao City, virtually all houses were either damaged or totally wrecked. The eight people killed were from Ilocos Norte, Isabela, Cagayan, Benguet, and Ifugao

In Isabela province, the agricultural sector was hit by P5 billion worth of damage, while its infrastructure was hit with P433 million in damages. This is the worst damage to Isabela’s agricultural sector in the province’s history.

Moreover, electricity and telecommunications were cut off throughout the region, affecting thousands of people. Roads were flooded and blocked off by uprooted and fallen trees, thus isolating several towns and barangays in Kalinga province. 130,000 people are still without electricity in Cagayan province, with 1,188 power lines damaged. They will have to wait until Christmas until their electricity will be restored.

Disaster Risk Reduction and Preparedness

Amidst the widespread devastation to infrastructure, agriculture, and people’s homes, and the deaths and displacements that occurred, there are also signs that the principles of preparedness to the impacts of the extreme weather related to climate change and disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) were implemented.

With early warnings that the monster typhoon was going to hit landfall, tens of thousands of people were evacuated two days before Lawin made landfall, with local government units (LGUs) taking the lead in getting people into evacuation centers. In Isabela, most of the farmers had harvested their crops before the typhoon hit, and relief supplies were provisioned to each municipality. This helped bring about an early recovery for many people in the province, with some communities able to return to their homes from the evacuation centers a day after the typhoon hit.

Social workers from the Department of Social Works and Development (DSWD) as well as volunteers provided food, water, and medicines to the displaced communities and families. Social workers also provided emotional and psychological support. DSWD field offices coordinated with member agencies to conduct initial assessments on the needs of the displaced people and the damages done.

On the other hand, not everyone received relief. Two weeks after the onslaught of the super typhoon, many affected families have still not received their emergency food aid in Cagayan and Isabela. LGUs had received food packs and other relief items from the DSWD, but these have not yet been transferred to many of the victims of the super typhoon. And as mentioned, many are still without electricity and telecommunications.

From Yolanda to Lawin

Nonetheless, the preparations that governments and communities took in anticipation of Super Typhoon Lawin were very important in saving lives and helping some communities to achieve an early recovery. This is in stark contrast to the grossly inadequate response to the coming of Super Typhoon Yolanda to the central Philippines in November 2013. Officials had massively underestimated the wreckage that Yolanda would cause, preparing way too few relief goods and supplies and failing to evacuate nearly enough people. Some local community members were also skeptical that the typhoon would be as massively destructive as it was. Many people in government and local communities simply couldn’t fathom the super typhoon having as much damage as it would. The 314-km/h super typhoon killed over 7,000 people in Tacloban City and displaced millions, infamously becoming the strongest hurricane to hit landfall in recorded human history.

In fact, a few years before Yolanda struck, the Philippine government had been making preparations for the impacts of the extreme weather brought by the global climate crisis, including fiercer tropical cyclones. The Climate Change Act of 2009 mandated the formation of the Climate Change Commission (CCC), the formulation of a National Framework Strategy on Climate Change (NFSCC), and the formulation of a National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP). The NCCAP was adopted in 2011 and provides a roadmap for how the country will respond to climate change and “incorporate a gender-sensitive, pro-children, and pro-poor perspective in all climate change and renewable energy efforts, plans, and programs.” The Climate Change Act also called on LGUs to draft Local Climate Change Action Plans (LCCAPs), but as of today, less than 10% of LGUs around the country have drafted LCCAPs. This is unfortunate, as drafting an LCCAP is a mandatory prerequisite to LGUs obtaining resources from the People’s Survival Fund to build local projects for dealing with climate change.

In 2010, moreover, the Philippine legislature passed the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act, which created the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). Regional and local DRRM councils have been established throughout the Philippines, meant to work in coordination with the NDRRMC to ensure that Filipino communities are strengthened and resilient enough to survive disasters. The NDRRM Plan (NDRRMP) specifically integrates DRRM with climate change adaptation (CCA) measures, recognizing that the Philippines’ approach to surviving disasters must place the impacts of the climate crisis at the forefront of this approach.

In the wake of Super Typhoon Lawin, it seems that these principles of DRRM and CCA are increasingly being implemented in the country. Though much work in building truly sustainable and resilient Filipino communities is still urgently needed, LGUs, local DRRM councils in concert with the NDRRMC, DSWD field offices, civil society groups, and local communities have been increasingly recognizing the urgent need to be prepared in the face of extreme weather disasters amidst climate change. Tacloban City itself held a donation drive for victims of Super Typhoon Lawin, and the city council passed a resolution that calls on the city’s finance committee to look into sending financial aid to Lawin-affected communities in northern Luzon.

Climate Justice in Morocco

In this third-year anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda’s horrifying destruction in the Philippines and on the eve of the COP 22 Climate Talks in Marrakech, Morocco, it is important to remember the cause of the contemporary climate crisis and the “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR) in taking on the crisis. Countries in the Global South like the Philippines have contributed less than 1% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, yet are disproportionately suffering from the impacts of the climate crisis. Recognizing that the most vulnerable nations on Earth to the climate crisis also are the least culpable in causing it, the principle of CBDR calls on all countries to take responsibility in mitigating climate change while also calling on the high-emitting rich industrialized countries of the Global North to provide their fair share, compensating Global South nations like the Philippines with climate financing as a part of their “climate debt.”

With President Duterte recently stating that the Philippines will ratify the Paris Agreement, it is imperative for the Philippines and other nations to forcefully call on the global community to take drastic measures to reduce GHG emissions; abandon all coal, oil, gas, and nuclear radiation; transition to 100% clean, renewable, and safe energy; and compel the industrialized nations of the Global North to drastically increase their (thus far) woefully inadequate pledges for climate reparations to the most vulnerable nations and communities on Earth that have contributed the least to creating the climate crisis.

In the meantime, the Philippines continues to face the imperative of effective disaster risk reduction and management, climate change adaptation, and building truly safe, sustainable, and resilient communities in the face of the climate crisis. The Paris Agreement called on all countries in the world to limit the average global temperature increase to no more than 1.5-degrees Celsius. The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) and other Filipino civil-society representatives have lamented that, with an already 0.8-degree Celsius increase, we’ve gotten the monstrousness of Super Typhoon Yolanda, forcing us to imagine and contend with what a 1.5C increase will mean for the country.

Nonetheless, the 1.5C target is what the international community was able to agree on in Paris last year. The international community must take drastic action to mitigate climate change by reducing GHG emissions, while Filipinos and other archipelagic and coastal communities are learning to adapt to the colossal hurricanes, rising sea levels, intensifying flooding and droughts, and other extreme impacts of the climate crisis in a way that is sustainable, just, and safe.


  • – ixzz4PFsjhKcf