‘It is not too late to prevent a turn for the worse’ – CEED on the devastation caused by recent typhoons in the Philippines

On November 11 to 12, 2020, Typhoon Ulysses (international name Vamco) carved for itself a path of destruction across Luzon, submerging towns as far as Catanduanes in Bicol Region and Cagayan in the North. In its wake at least forty deaths have been recorded, hundreds of thousands have been displaced, and millions are left without electricity and supply of clean water.

Ulysses is the 21st typhoon to hit the country this year, coming barely two weeks after the “world’s strongest typhoon of 2020”, Rolly, wreaked similarly massive havoc. At least four more storms are expected to visit the Philippines before the year ends.

The devastation of Typhoon Ulysses is yet another taste of what the climate emergency brings about due to our incessant burning of fossil fuels, reckless disregard for natural barriers to calamities, and unsustainable ways of living. While we may be too late to return to the time when typhoons like Ulysses only happened once a century, it is not too late to prevent a turn for the worse.

We call on the Philippines and all countries who continue to burn coal and other fossil fuels to immediately transition to renewable energy. Today, the government is taking the first steps to reduce dependence on coal, beginning with a moratorium on new coal endorsements by the Department of Energy. We remind the DOE, however, not to walk when we can only afford to run in the climate race, and make sure that the moratorium would result in the non-issuance of any new Certificate of Endorsement, eventual revocation of existing ones, and decommissioning of operating coal-fired power plants, many of which are already at the end of their lifespan.

We, too, ask the Philippine government to cease all logging and quarrying operations in the Sierra Madre and other watersheds and forests in the country that shield our people from the worst of calamities, and to immediately step up reforestation and adaptation efforts to help mitigate the effects of typhoons. The Filipino people are indeed resilient, yet the trait is no excuse for climate inaction and unaccountability on the part of our leaders.

But the Philippines is not alone in shouldering climate responsibilities, and the government led by the president and the cabinet must be at the forefront of calling out climate injustice. We demand that the international community, particularly developed countries, work to bring about in developing countries a sustainable lifestyle which follows the tenets of ecological and climate justice, and account for the loss and damages experienced by communities most at risk from the climate crisis. It is the least they can do and a debt ought to be paid to climate-vulnerable peoples after unleashing the tide of industrialization which triggered the climate crisis in the first place.