ACCORDING to Pagasa, the mean annual rainfall of the Philippines varies from 965 to 4,064 millimetres annually. Nathaniel Cruz, a meteorologist, said that frequent weather disturbances in Mindanao, especially in the first few months of the year, are highly unusual. He said that historically, typhoons only hit Mindanao once every 10 years on average.
So when Typhoon Sendong hit Iligan City late 2011, the people of Mindanao weren’t expecting such drastic damages. The storm affected more than 1,000 people and destroyed more than 100,000 homes.
A year later with no mercy to spare, Typhoon Pablo, the strongest tropical cyclone to hit the Philippines, decided to visit and cause havoc in the island. After hitting Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, it crossed the southern and central regions of Mindanao, cutting the provinces’ electricity power and triggering landslides.
Not even 10 months in the year, Mindanao has already faced three different typhoons and an abundance of tropical depressions.
According to National Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), massive flooding has displaced 347,000 people in North Cotabato and Maguindanao following torrential rains induced by weather disturbances.
A climatologist from Pagasa, Thelma Cinco, said that the recent destructive typhoons to hit Mindanao “clearly shows a change in weather pattern” in the area. She recalled that before the turn of the millennium, the only destructive cyclone to hit Mindanao was Tropical Depression Titang which left over 600 people dead in the area during the 1970s.
So why the sudden change of weather pattern? Or is it really the change of weather pattern that’s causing all these floods? Let’s see.
Illegal activities could be a possible cause for the destruction and displacement. Illegal mining and logging isn’t something new to the people of Mindanao. It has always remained rampant especially in provinces like Cotabato, Iligan, Bukidnon, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte and Compostela Valley.
Although there are laws that prohibit people from deforestation and mining, people still continue without thinking of the possible consequences it might cause. It may benefit the people but the benefits never outweigh the penalties.
The governors of Mindanao have been stricter than ever when it comes to illegal activists but the decrease on the activities hasn’t been as high as they are expected.
Large volumes of illegally cut logs and lumber products continue to be confiscated in military and police operations and the checkpoints and evidence on the suspects aren’t enough to stop illegal miners.
With barren land, people usually build businesses and infrastructures to replace what was lost. For the past three years, businesses have been flowing in Mindanao. Condominiums and shopping malls have been rapidly growing in Cagayan de Oro, Davao City and General Santos City. And what do we get when we get more buildings?
This makes the cities populated. As more people move in, more buildings are also made to accommodate them. This flattens the land and puts impermeable concrete over the soil with removing any vegetation.
There wouldn’t be any soil or vegetation to soak up the waters from the rain so there’s an increase in surface run off which could flow into a nearby river and risk overflowing its banks and thus cause a flood.
Urbanization has a lot of benefits but it also has some consequences.
As for global warming, well, no one can stop Mother Nature. It’s unequivocal, it’s already happening. You can reduce it, pause it, but you can’t ever stop it.
Scientists say that the increase of the Earth’s temperature is caused by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases and extensive burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. The whole world is trying its best to stop the speed of global warming but since the population is rapidly growing and environmental ways to build homes is expensive, it isn’t easy.
When we look way back, Mindanao didn’t experience floods as heavy and as damaging as it does now. Global warming, illegal activities, or even the rapid rise of urbanization are all possible causes of the floods. Whatever the reason, rains continue to flood the areas of Mindanao.
The best the government can do is to stop illegal activities and start building evacuation centers and the most people can do is to start helping themselves. They should be aware of the incoming rainfall and ready their belongings for possible floods. (Sofia Aledia)
* Sunday Essays are articles by Ateneo de Davao University students for their advanced journalism class.