Climate Witness: Mario Roy Magayon, Philippines
In 2004, the local climate still seemed fine, but things have changed. Older villagers say that like them, the climate has also grown older and more senile. This was how people coped, for no one explained climate change to us.
It’s now getting harder to fish. The rains originally came in August. Now fishermen must prepare for rain as early as June because of low-pressure fronts which can rapidly develop into full-blown storms in just a few hours. In 2006 or 2007, fishing yields simply plummeted. Experienced fishers say that since the sea is becoming warmer, the tuna, trevally and mackerel stay in deeper waters, making them much harder to catch. In 2002 I established a volunteer group called SHARKS or Solidong Hanay para sa Apo Reef at Karagatan ng Sablayan (Unified Ranks for Apo Reef and Sablayan) to protect our waters from poachers.
In 2007 and 2008, Apo Reef saw a massive outbreak of Crown-of-Thorns starfish. When these starfish settle on a reef, many corals die. If Apo Reef still had a lot of predator species to eat the starfish, it would be fine. Sadly that’s no longer the case, so we need human intervention to remove them. SHARKS went along in 2008 and helped collect over 5,000 starfish. We have done much to protect the sea from poachers and starfish but sadly, we cannot protect ourselves from the sea itself.
Homes at Risk
When I arrived in Sta. Lucia, the shoreline was much farther out, perhaps 15 meters away. If we look at pictures of my old house, you’ll see I had two coconut trees up front. Now they’re both gone, swept out to sea. Even my big Talisay or umbrella tree has been uprooted and destroyed.
Floods are now more common. Before, the breakwater would still be about a foot lower than our cement roads. Sometimes it is now on the same level. In another five or 10 years, the road will surely be submerged. Our homes are at risk. That’s why today, we should think about solutions. Even if we don’t completely stop it, there’s a lot we can do to minimize the effects of climate change.
Scientific reviewReviewed by: Dr Rodel D. Lasco, Philippines Programme Coordinator, World Agroforestry Centre, ICRAF, Philippines
Mario’s observations are somewhat consistent with peer-reviewed literature for the Philippines. Observations by the weather bureau (PAGASA) in the last 50 years show an increasing annual mean air temperature especially mean minimum temperature. There are no records of rising sea temperature but this is possible considering that air temperature has risen.
Mario’s experience on early onset of rainy season maybe part of climate variability since there is no significant shift rainfall patterns. However, most climate models show an increasing trend of rainfall in the future. Flooding is consistent with this projection. In fact in central Philippines, there is an observed increase in extreme daily rainfall which could also be happening in Mindoro island.
- ADB. 2009. The Economics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia: A Regional Review, Asian Development Bank (ADB)
- Cruz, R. V. O., R. D. Lasco, J. M. Pulhin, F. B. Pulhin, and K. B. Garcia. 2006. Climate Change Impact on Water Resources in Pantabangan Watershed, Philippines. AIACC Final Technical Report 9-107. Available: www.aiaccproject.org/FinalReports/final_reports.html
- Tibig, L. V. 2004. Trends in Extreme Daily Temperatures and 24-hr Rainfall in the Philippines, Climatology and Agrometeorology Branch. Technical Report, Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, Quezon City.
All articles are subject to scientific review by a member of the Climate Witness Science Advisory Panel.