Climate and Environment

Advocates call for climate emergency in Mindanao

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Advocates call for climate emergency in Mindanao
Army rescuers and government responders recover a cadaver at the landslide ground zero in Barangay Masara, Davao de Oro on Feb. 12, 2024.
Facebook/Philippine Army

MANILA, Philippines — A coalition of climate advocates has called on the government to declare a state of climate emergency in Mindanao as floods, landslides and drought affect communities in the country’s south.

“A declaration of climate emergency is the first step towards acknowledging the urgency of the climate crisis and placing front and center the people during the climate crisis,” the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) said. 

PMCJ, a coalition of environmental, faith-based, and people's organizations, released the statement following reports of water sources drying up in Tawi-Tawi and Bukidnon due to El Niño. Recent studies suggest that global warming may be leading to stronger El Niño events.

Heavy rain, meanwhile, has caused massive floods and landslides in Davao de Oro and Agusan del Sur, burying villages and killing dozens of residents. 

PMCJ urged the local governments in Mindanao to strengthen the capacity of localities to deal with the impacts of climate change, provide adequate shelter to displaced communities, and review current disaster prevention and response programs.

Local governments should also limit carbon emissions in the local industries, craft a roadmap to bring renewable energy projects to rural communities, the coalition added.

“We implore the government to prioritize the welfare of Mindanaoans and the environment now,” it said.

Groups have been asking the national government to declare a climate emergency in the Philippines, one of the nations most vulnerable to climate impacts. 

The House of Representatives approved on final reading a bill declaring that the Philippines in a state of climate emergency in November 2023. However, counterpart bills in the Senate currently remain pending at the committee level.

The provincial government of Albay, as well as major cities such as Quezon City and Makati City, previously declared a state of climate emergency.

‘Destructive activities worsen climate impacts’

PMCJ also called for tighter regulations on mining operations and probe mining operations in Brgy. Masara, a gold-mining village in Maco, Davao del Sur. 

A massive landslide triggered by relentless downpour hit the area, killing at least 98 individuals. Nine people remained missing. 

“Poor land management exacerbates climate impacts. Destructive economic activities like mining weakens our defenses against climate disasters,” PMCJ said. 

Anti-mining coalition Alyansa Tigil Muna also said in an earlier statement that mineral extraction does not only contribute to climate change, but also worsens its impacts.

PMCJ noted that large-scale mining operations lead to widespread deforestation, which makes mountains more vulnerable to erosion. 

“As global warming brings more frequent and heavier rains, landslides will happen more often,” it added.

Apex Mining Corp. said the landslide occurred outside the company’s mine operations area. 

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