Climate Witness: Leonor Corral, Philippines
I have lived in El Nido most of my life and am a living testament to how the years have changed it. Before, we had a defined dry and wet season. Typhoons never reached our area. We always had fish and squid in abundance and boasted of a water system that reached all families – a year-round freshwater supply for rice fields and households.
The El Niño phenomenon that rocked the country in 1998 gave us our first experience of coral bleaching and its costly aftermath. We were very hard-hit because the fish yield has significantly decreased since then – and a lot of people have livelihoods that depend on the bounty of the sea. My brother used to fish in front of the town and as a family, we caught squid. Nowadays? You’re lucky if you can come up with five or ten kilos.
Today, typhoons are common – even in the Calamianes islands up north. We bear the brunt of the heavy flooding and the soil erosion that comes with it. The coconut trees that once dotted our coastlines are no more and floods now reach the town. Freshwater is scarce now – it does not reach everyone. We are still trying to find a good water source. On top of all this, more and people are migrating to El Nido, further straining the resources.
In pursuit of a living planet
El Nido is guided by the vision of sustainable development. To combat the effects of climate change, we are enforcing strict environmental protection. Each town is required to declare their own watershed areas and marine sanctuaries. The fisheries code is being strongly enforced. We have set up alternative livelihood programs to help people cope with decreasing fish yields – seaweed culture, mariculture, crab fattening, organic hog-raising and even mangrove reforestation projects as alternatives to producing charcoal. We even have personnel dedicated to guarding the environment.
Climate change is affecting us right now. All our programmes will be useless if we don’t protect the environment.
Scientific reviewReviewed by: Dr Rodel Lasco, Philippines Programme Coordinator, World Agroforestry Centre, ICRAF, Philippines
Leonor’s observations on coral bleaching during El Nino years is consistent with glbal observations as a result of higher sea temperatures.
However her observation on increased typhoons is not supported by peer-reviewed literature and observations by the weather bureau (PAGASA). PAGASA records show that the number of typhoons throughout the Philippines has remained more or less the same. Then again, in central Philippines, a slight increase in number of typhoons has been recorded and this could be the case in Palawan. Still at this point, her observation could be accounted for by climate variability.
In the future, most climate models show an increasing trend in rainfall and extreme events. So Leonor’s observations maybe a good indication of potential climate impacts in the area.
All articles are subject to scientific review by a member of the Climate Witness Science Advisory Panel.