A climate of tragedy in the Philippines

Manila, 2 December 2006 – Greenpeace today lamented the loss of lives and the extensive devastation wrought by super-typhoon Reming (international code name Durian) in parts of the Philippines, stressing that the latest extreme weather disturbance to hit the country is a portent of more violent weather events that countries around the world are likely to experience in the future as a consequence of climate change.

“The tragic loss of lives and the massive destruction of properties brought about by the super-typhoon deserves immediate attention and sympathy from the international community. It should also serve as a wake-up call about the need for governments to find ways to avert or mitigate the catastrophic impacts of extreme weather events which scientists predict could become more severe because of climate change.

We are calling on governments worldwide to act decisively and urgently on climate change because it is poor countries like the Philippines who bear much of the brunt from such climate impacts,” said Abigail Jabines, Climate and Energy campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Reming is the latest in the series of deadly and destructive tropical cyclones to ravage the Philippines in recent years. The typhoon brought 466 millimeters of rainfall, the highest in 40 years. Reming is also the third super-typhoon this year–a first in Philippine history–and the fourth major typhoon in as many months. Typhoon Milenyo (international code name Xangsane), struck the country in September, causing more than P3 billion in damages and leaving more than a hundred casualties.

Super-typhoons, Paeng (Cimaron) and Queenie (Chebi) followed in October and November, both adding millions of pesos more to the damages already wrought by Milenyo. Reming’s current death toll is at 388, and the extensive damages it brought to Marinduque, Mindoro and the Bicol region have yet to be fully accounted.

Scientists say that as global temperatures rise, the intensity of extreme weather events is likely to increase, and it is possible that in the future the impact of these events will become even greater.

Research by Dr. Leoncio Amadore, one of the Philippines’ foremost meteorologists, showed that the Philippine archipelago has already suffered severely from extreme weather events. His report “Crisis or Opportunity: Climate Change Impacts and the Philippines”, indicates that from 1975 to 2002, intensifying tropical cyclones caused an annual average of 593 deaths and damage to property of 4.5 billion pesos (around US$ 83 million), including damage to agriculture of 3 billion pesos (around US$ 55 million).

“The combination of strong typhoons, excessive precipitation and landslides has caused a great deal of death and destruction in the Philippines. If we do not act urgently, climate change will further intensify the severity of extreme weather events,” said Amadore.

Greenpeace is urging governments in the region to use the upcoming 12th ASEAN Summit as a platform to secure critical agreements on urgent measures to mitigate the impacts of climate change across the region.

Examples of such measures include the massive shift away from dirty fossil-fuel based energy sources and towards renewable energy systems and the setting of legally-binding targets for drastic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions around the world.

Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that uses non-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems to force solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

Abigail Jabines, Climate and Energy Campaigner, +63 917 886 4767
Lea Guerrero, Media Campaigner, +63 2 434 7034 loc 104, +63 916 374 4969