13 February 2011

Philippines: A Fragile State Vulnerable to Climate Change

Pasig City Flood During Typhoon Ondoy / Ketsana
Photo from post-ondoy.blogspot.com
A fragile state may be characterized by weak state institutions, unstable political arrangement and internal armed conflict. In these times of climate change where risk hazard for citizens are increasing, fragile states may find their problems intensify. A fragile state has minimal or no mitigation and adaptation policies for the effects of climate change, and in the event of a calamity, will most likely fail to deliver basic services to those who need it. 

The Philippines is an example of a fragile state. State institutions are inefficient, laws are not taken seriously by its citizens and more than 4 decades of armed conflict that challenges the legitimacy of the state itself.

Metro Manila flooding brought by Typhoon Ondoy / Ketsana
Photo from news.nfo.ph
The Philippines is a major stakeholder in the subject of climate change because of its geographical characteristics. An archipelago in the tropics, small changes in the global temperature can exacerbate the current problems. Sea level rise have started to claim some of our land in the coastal areas. Surface temperature have been on the rise since the 1980s. Weather extremes (ie drought vs devastating amount of rain) are happening more frequently. The aforementioned effects will increase risk for the marginalized in the country. The poor will remain poor or will sink deeper in poverty if the effects of climate change are not properly addressed. Bicol paints a picture of this. The poorest region in the country, as it is always in the path of typhoons never recovered from the recent extreme typhoons in the last 5 years. The structure of our society where a few elites control the power and resources of the country does not help the situation. It means more people are poor and more vulnerable to the risks of climate change. The more vulnerable people are to these risks, the more they are willing to take extralegal means of action to survive (ie in small scale, increase in crime and to a large scale, armed conflict).

In itself, the state is already weak regardless of climate change. The potential of climate change to deliver devastating effects will aggravate the cracks in the already fragile state and may end up in the breakdown of social order. 

Good governance is the simple answer to the problem. However, good governance is a complex web of activities and actors that makes it a challenge.

A comprehensive and long term policy on both climate change and economy are necessary tools for the strengthening of the state. Government must go beyond the thinking that economic development comes first before the environment. Our natural and human resources are our nation’s wealth, and a comprehensive policy is mandatory for the management of both. A comprehensive policy takes time to implement and its effects may also take time to be seen so continuity is equally important.

There must be an emphasis on the equitability characteristic of a policy. That we have the majority of our people at high risk due to poverty must be recognized and the policy properly targets this sector. The comprehensive policy must be designed sensitive to the marginalized sectors. 

With a new administration and renewed call for peace talks with armed groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the National Democratic Front, all parties must consider the climate change issue and its socio-economic effect as an agenda in the talks. 

Policy making, and its implementation need sufficient funding. The Philippines must invest in scientific research on the direct and indirect effects of climate change in the country. Data are invaluable in the design of a long-term comprehensive policy for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The Philippines is at risk in the aspects of economy and politics making it a fragile state. Poverty is the huge crack that makes us fragile and climate change may deliver the last blow before we fall into pieces. It is necessary to find that glue, a long term comprehensive policy with good governance, to mend the pieces.

1. Manila Observatory (2010), A Technical Primer on Climate Change in the Philippines

2. Smith D. and Vivenakanda, J. (2009), Climate Change, Conflict and Fragility: Understanding the Linkages, Shaping Effectiveness Response. International Alert. London.


Chew On This said...

These climate changes and all the calamities it brings scare the heck out of me. Our government should do more :( We don't know until when the higher grounds are still higher grounds :(

The Lazy Mama said...

I have this emergency preparedness project at home where everyone is ready for anything. Food shortage, water shortage, etc. We try to be prepared to face any type of calamity - even being jobless. From recent events, we can't depend solely from the government. We have to do what we can and stop blaming other people.

Diane said...

@Chew on This, me too. Espacially when my prof showed us the map of the Philippines if sea level should rise in the year 2050... grabe lang.

@Lazy Mama,we can prepare all we want but that would only be a short term solution, an adaptation to a worsening problem. It does not solve the cause of climate change. We rely on the government for solutions because of the scale of what government can do: it has the power over the national budget, they make policies, and they are recognized in the international community (ie UN).

Madz said...

Funding is definitely a big problem, add to that what seems to be the lack of preparation, I feel as if the Government only moves when disaster has struck already.

Mihai said...

asking the government to have an organized response would entail having the govt work on things more efficiently in general, which i dont think we can see happening soon.

people would rather be forced to adapt and find their own solutions ie. in quezon there are houses on "Stilts" the first floor is raised to third floor level


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