After the Storm: Facing climate change in the Philippines

The end of a Typhoon is only the beginning for Filipino families who live on the coast. Julieta Cuya resides in Tabaco City in Albay, Philippines, where she is the primary caregiver. She is 79 years old and she takes care of her two grandchildren.

As Super Typhoon Rolly (Goni), 2020’s strongest tropical storm, swept through their area in late 2020, she and her children fled to safety under tables.

The Philippines’ largest island, Luzon, was hit hard by the typhoon, which brought torrential rains and strong winds as well as mudslides, storm surges, and mudslides. It caused extensive damage, killing dozens and injuring hundreds. 2 million people were affected, including the Province of Albay in Bicol Region.

Julieta stated that after the storm subsided, she was able to move to her neighbor’s house to seek temporary shelter. We returned to our house and found many of our belongings gone, as well as our house in chaos. My heart and head hurt.”

Herlyn Boqueo, a forty-one-year-old mother of a child, was in Tabaco City when the typhoon struck. She sought shelter at the barangay kagawad of her councilor and waited for the water to recede.

She said, “I was afraid because the water was rising and my child was getting soaked.”

All my clothes were wet when I returned home to my house. I was able to get help. IOM’s cash assistance allowed me to purchase coffee and milk and I attended a training seminar. The foundation of a house must be strong to ensure it can withstand natural calamities and typhoons. This was something I learned a lot.

Federico Laprades Jr., a 60-year old fisherman and partially blind, was also affected by the storm.

He said, “For as long I can, I try and go out to sea every day.” It’s hard but I have to keep going and I still have one eye. My bangka (small boat) is my personal, but it was destroyed by the storm.

His roof was torn off by the typhoon.

“We are used to storms but this one was really strong. The water level rose from the shoreline to our home. He said that although we were afraid, we could not do much but wait it out.

Our local leaders began looking for families that could be eligible for assistance after the storm. I was one of those families. It meant that I could fix my house.

Federico’s leg was just removed and Federico couldn’t lift heavy objects, so his neighbors helped him bring home the supplies.

“I was so grateful because they not only provided us with quality materials but also trained us on how to properly repair our homes. Although life has been hard, I am thankful for the help that we received to get back on our feet,” he stated.

The experiences of Julieta, Herlyn, and Federico are just three examples of hundreds that have been shared on Rawis island. People on Rawis are dependent on the environment to provide their livelihoods and rely on mangrove lumber, seaweed farming, and coastal fishing for their survival.

The worst effects of climate change are being felt by coastal residents, farmers, and fisherfolk. It is the most vulnerable communities, often those that do not directly contribute towards climate change, who are the poorest.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), Philippines, surveyed vulnerable communities and local governments to better understand the impact of climate change on migration. People living near coastal cities claim that they have seen an increase in the intensity and rise in sea level, which has forced residents of buffer zones and residential areas to move further inland.

These stories are supported by scientific studies that show extreme weather events will become more frequent and intense due to climate change.

About half of the 20 that hit the Philippines each year will pass through the archipelago. It is consistently ranked among the most vulnerable countries to climate change, despite having made a small contribution to it. According to data from 2020’s Climate Risk Index (CRI), the Philippines is also the second-most affected country by weather-related losses.

These conditions are driving Filipinos to migrate. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, the Philippines saw 4.4 million people who were displaced in their country by natural disasters in 2020. This figure is second only to China’s 2020 record. This is not a new trend. The Philippines ranks first or second globally in terms of the number affected by internal disaster displacement over the past five years. It has 4.1 million people in 2019, 3.8 million in 2018, 2.5 million in 2017, and 2.6 million in 2016.

Rawis and its residents have a reputation of being resilient in the face of hardship and able to recover from super typhoons.

When asked about their plans for the future, they replied that “if another storm comes, it will also be over”.

The Philippines’ local authorities are instituting climate change adaptation and preparedness programs to prepare for the impacts of climate change on migration. But the question remains: Are we doing enough to make our communities resilient?

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