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Climate change in the Philippines

crizBy Cris Diaz

THE low pressure area that battered Mindanao in the past weeks finally turned into a storm.

Typhoon Agaton, the first tropical depression this year, was initially spotted 145 kilometers east of Surigao City packing at 55 kilometers per hour in the center, but moving slowly at 5 kilometers toward southwest to northeast Mindanao.

For the past weeks, the intermittent heavy rains spawned by the low pressure area was proven equally dangerous – more when it developed into a tropical depression. However, before Agaton came, the LPA already destroyed bridges, spawned flash floods, landslides and killing more than 40 people in various areas in Mindanao.

While everyone was talking about the devastation left by Super typhoon Yolanda, nobody cares about Agaton. What makes it relevant? Yolanda was the strongest cyclone to landfall in Philippine soil in 2013.

The U.S. weather bureau even dubbed Yolanda as the world’s strongest typhoon to landfall in recent years, eclipsing the previous strong cyclones that visited the planet.

On the contrary, Agaton was the slow foot howler whose manifest indolence may not prove hazardous. Yet, after considering all the presumptions and ramifications, both Yolanda and Agaton were proven to be equally dangerous.

One sees the two sides of the coin here. With a maximum wind of 250 kilometers to 300 kilometers, Yolanda exemplified a powerful and merciless storm that wrought havoc along its way, leaving a trail of death and destruction. Yolanda unleashed a fury that went down in the memories of those who survived its atrocities. In less than 24-hour after it landfall in the Central Visayas region, Yolanda made a radical change of the country’s perception toward the changing environment. Indeed, climate change has started to take its toll as Yolanda sent the strongest message that humankind should reconsider climate mitigation as the order of the millennium.

The other side of the coin was Agaton. The lazy cyclone with a characteristic to linger as it wishes by moving at a speed of five kilometers per hour. Before developing into a tropical depression, Agaton sent his emissaries of Low Pressure Area (LPA) hovering the island of Mindanao for weeks while intermittently pouring moderate to heavy rains.

The LPA spawned flash floods and inundated most parts of Mindanao, particularly the Caraga Region. The LPA’s snail-paced movements triggered landslides as mountains and slopes soften in the pounding of rains. Bridge collapse and unexpected deaths occurred as sudden flash floods trapped unwary individuals along river banks and creeks.

Agricultural crops were destroyed and commercial flights in Misamis Oriental were cancelled most of the time paralyzing the business climate in the region that translates into billions of losses.

Agitation also followed an abnormal storm path that changes every now and then. Weather specialists were puzzled because Agaton was supposed to move Northwest or Northward as the usual typhoon route.

Instead, Agaton created its own track toward Southwest and then to Northeast Mindanao. What is happening? Again, weather experts noticed that climate change is taking place and it is certainly taking in the Philippines now.

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