Tuesday, November 3, 2015
By Anton Antonio
November 4, 2015
Climate change-induced extreme weather conditions in the Philippines could be categorized into two types --- (1) hotter temperature and (2) stronger tropical cyclones coupled with an abnormal volume of precipitation. Both temperature and storms could have devastating effects. An increase in average temperature, together with the El Niño phenomenon will impact on the availability of fresh water which will eventually affect agricultural productivity and food security as well. Abnormally strong tropical cyclones, on the other hand, can have immediate effects in terms of loss of life and property. If we, Filipinos, think that these are the only problems we should worry about, well… think again.
The above-mentioned conditions are not the only cause for worry in the Philippines. The Indonesian haze, although distant from Philippine shores, can also affect Filipinos especially when the country is visited by tropical cyclones. This was very evident during Typhoon Lando (international name: Koppu). As Typhoon Lando made a southeast to northwest pass over Luzon, it sucked-in air from southern-eastern Indonesia where peat fires were taking place. This blanketed the western part of Mindanao up to some islands in the Visayan regions. “Last night PAGASA came up with an advisory that the Philippines should expect at least three more tropical cyclones this year… possibly two this month and another one in December.” (Antonio, 2015)
At this point, it would perhaps be worth knowing what is causing haze in Indonesia. The haze in Indonesia is caused by peat fires. Indonesian farmers, for decades now, have been intentionally setting fires to clear away rainforest for farmland and produce commodities like palm oil, a popular ingredient in processed food and cosmetics. The country’s small farmers are legally allowed to burn up to two hectares but, often, more is being actually burned to have more land use conversion into agriculture. In the case of Indonesia, forest law enforcement is quite lax. Problems, however, start when these fires occur in areas rich in peat which is a dense, soil-like mixture of partially decayed leaves and branches. Fires fuelled by peat can proliferate uncontrollably, smoldering underground for weeks, feeding off the soil, releasing toxic pollutants and vast quantities of carbon dioxide and methane. The problem with peat fires is that these can go into the soil and travel underground making the fire fighting task extremely difficult as the fires can surface anywhere. And under El Niño conditions, peat fires are close to impossible to stop… as only continuous heavy downpour of rain can extinguish them.
Care for the environment is a must for everyone. Haze caused by peat fires may impact on an entire region even as big as Asean… which is practically happening now. On top of having to deal with the possibility of three more tropical cyclones this year, the Philippines will also have to deal with the possibility of haze caused by peat fires.
Thoughts to promote positive action…
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Antonio, A.C. (2015). “The Tarlac City Dike Narratives”. Retrieved on November 4, 2015 from http://antonantonio.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-tarlac-city-dike-narratives.html
Antonio, A.C. (2015). “Haze”. Retrieved on November 4, 2015 from http://antonantonio.blogspot.com/2015/10/haze.html