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Some Filipinos blame politics and industry for monster typhoon

Residents of Tacloban City, Philippines cover their noses from smell of dead bodies from super typhoon Haiyan, known as Yolanda in the Philippines. Photo by Bullit Marquez, AP.

As the world turns its eyes on the Philippines after the worst recorded typhoon in history ravaged through the country, Filipinos are pointing fingers at the Harper government for creating the monster. 

 “Canada enters into climate change negotiations and simultaneously they’re fracking, continuing tar sands projects and digging into land all over the world. Canadian mining in the Philippines is devastating,” said Katie Zalazar, a community organizer with No One Is Illegal. She spoke about how her fisher-folk family was displaced by mining projects in Batangas at a recent environmental discussion put together by a climate justice youth group, Power Shift. 

Dr. Nora Angeles, an associate professor at UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning, acknowledged that most Canadian mining companies such as Toronto Venture Inc., are in the Philippines’ southern province of Mindanao and the pathway of super typhoon Haiyan hit the central region of Samar Island and Leyte the hardest.

But super typhoons Bopha (known as Pablo in the Philippines) and Washi (Sendong) killed more than a thousand people each in Mindanao in December 2012 and 2013. The two typhoons, including Haiyan, are also unusually late in the season. The Philippines halted logging since Feb.2011 to avert such environmental disasters.

Deforestation, the process by which trees are rampantly ripped off land to make room for the large-scale mines, has contributed to the worsening typhoons, Angeles pointed out. “With the wind speed of Yolanda, trees would have helped reduce its impact on the ground,” as they could have prevented erosion and landslides, she said.

Illegal logging and mining projects have degraded the soil and water, Angeles insisted. “Combine that with more tropical storms that are getting stronger – then it is going to be a recipe for more environmental degradation,” she said. In other words, the “natural” catastrophe is human-made, as much as the Philippines is situated in a typhoon belt, Angeles argued.

By far, Haiyan has taken more lives than Bopha and Washi. The death toll climbed to 10,000 in Tacloban City alone, where it landed. An estimated 615,000 people have been displaced.

But first, people have to accept the idea of climate change.

“The climate change nay-sayers, especially those promoting fossil fuels, non- renewable sources – they should wake up,” Angeles argued.

That sense of urgency was brought up twice by Philippine climate representative Nadarev “Yeb” Sano. Last year, he made a tearful plea to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – documented in the video below:  

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