Climate Change and the Philippine Economic Condition

Posted on Posted in 2019-2020

Written by: Zian Bonoan

Illustration by: Angelikah Gustillo


It was believed that back in the 1960’s, that earth’s climate changed at such a slow rate as to encompass centuries before any difference is felt, but as evidence arises of the earth’s rapid shift in global temperature, this notion will soon be proved wrong. With the rise of human civilization and the decades proceeding, human activity quickly became a main variable to the ever changing climate. 

The production of goods and the speed in which it is produced is necessary to its economic progress, but the means in which society achieves it are detrimental to the condition of the environment. The benefits of economic progress can be clearly seen in the world’s largest economies like the United States, China, and Japan, but it is worthy to take note that the effects of climate change are not isolated to them; rather, climate change is an epidemic concerning even those countries that can barely provide a good quality of life for their citizens. A look into the consequences of climate change in the Philippine economy will give further insight on just how the state of the environment directly affects livelihoods. 

The geographical location and economic condition of the Philippines places it in a vulnerable position against the increasing intensities of natural phenomena. According to a study by Sebastian Bathiany, there is a link between GDP and geographical location. The Philippines, just like majority of third world countries, is situated on or near the equator. It is expected that countries located by the equator are to experience higher temperature volatility compared to the rest of the world, leading to less predictable seasons and thus less agricultural output due to the drying up soil and less water for irrigation of crops. This becomes especially concerning when 26% or around 10.9 million of the employed population fall under this sector as of January 2018, according to the Philippine News Agency. This number continues to drop as the size of arable land slowly decreases. To the dismay of these 10.9 million Filipinos, Agriculture, Hunting, Forestry and Fishing (AHFF) only comprises 8.1% of the total GDP in 2018 according to the Philipine Statistics Authority. 

Of course, there are also the direct effects of the increasing heat like the frequency of grass and forest fires. According to the Philippine News Agency, in the Cordillera, 122 out of 165 fire incidents in the span of three months were grass and forest fires. The damage of all 165 fire incidents covered 797 hectares of forest land which is over 9 times the size of Ateneo de Manila University. 

Aside from issues on land, the severe heat is warming the oceans. This means a disruption of all marine life and so, economically, this becomes an issue for the fishing sector because as fish migrate to cooler waters, fishermen will produce less yield overtime. Because of drought back in 2015 to early 2016, fish production declined by 250,000 metric tons or in other words 250 million kilos of fish. Not only will this endanger the livelihood of fishermen, but insufficient food supply may lead to even more severe malnutrition in a country that is already struggling with it. According to a study conducted by UNICEF, 29,000 children are dying annually due to malnutrition. The Philippine government has an expenditure of PHP220 billion annually in defense against its effects. 

It has become an impending eventuality that the increasing temperature in the oceans will trigger an issue from the other end of the spectrum: longer and stronger periods of rainfall. Warming of the oceans potentially form stronger, more disastrous typhoons. This becomes a serious threat not only to infrastructure, a vital component in supporting transportation of goods and services, but also to poor communities that cannot afford proper housing. Destructive typhoon seasons in the Philippines cuts down GDP by 2% and another 2% is reduced for reconstruction of the damages. In 2017, typhoons and flash-floods cost the Philippine economy PHP 6.446 billion according to the Office of Civil Defense-National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. This figure excludes private property damage and the lives of people that have been lost in calamities caused by the typhoons. The Philippines, being a country prone to typhoons, have their precautions set in place, but as the climate escalates and creates a surge in stronger, more disastrous tropical storms, their tolerance will prove insufficient to the detriment of the nation’s citizens. 

The effects of climate change are most unforgiving to the less fortunate groups in the Philippines who comprise of about 22% of the whole population. Their circumstances, caused by their financial situation, deem them vulnerable against these forces of nature. The condition of the economy is a reflection of the well-being of its people and as the effects of climate change weaken their living standards and attainment of a livelihood, the economy of the Philippines follows suit and slows down. 

The opposition to the causes of climate change requires a collective agreement among all members of society. With the rate at which the Earth’s resources have been depleted, abused and appropriated in the name of human advancement, it should only be right for us to realize our accountability to the environment and match it with radical actions. At this point, only a worldwide  environmental revolution will save the human race from the consequences we’ve placed ourselves in. 


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