The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) is one with the victims and survivors of Typhoon Lando in these difficult times. The sight of families losing a loved one and farmers left with nothing but submerged and destroyed crops are unbearable. In these difficult times, the victims and survivors need our collective action to help them rebuild their lives and their communities.
Aside from its devastating effect, Typhoon Lando and the previous storms exposed us to the harsh realities of disasters. The Cordillera region is one of the areas in the country highly vulnerable to disasters. Given its geographical location, the region is prone to landslides, flash floods, swelling of rivers and more. As of this writing and based from reports from the government’s disaster agency, the death toll alone in the region is 17. While its effect to agriculture and infrastructures are also devastating.
Another important realization of this typhoon is that it highlighted other major factors that aggravate the effects of typhoons. It cannot be denied that large dams such as the Magat, Binga, Ambuclao and the San Roque Multipurpose Dam clearly contributed to the increased and prolonged floods experienced by downstream communities of Isabela and Pangasinan. For the long time since 1998, the CPA campaigned against the construction of the San Roque Multipurpose Dam because of its possible adverse effects to the environment especially to the low-lying communities of Itogon and Pangasinan. Aside from this, the construction of the San Roque Dam is a loan from Japan which until today, the Filipinos are paying.
Aside from large dams, large scale mining also contributes to the effects of typhoons to farmers. Based on the testimonies of farmers in Cervantes and Quirino, Ilocos Sur, during the past Typhoon Ineng, it washed out and flooded their rice fields with sands, rocks and mud. Nothing is harvested from their fully ripe rice crops. In their testimony, the farmers stated that the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation has been dumping their waste into the Abra River especially during typhoons and strong rains. This practice of Lepanto contributed to the fast sedimentation and siltation of the Abra River. The once wide hectares of rice fields are now consumed by the Abra River.
These connections are compelling reasons for us to nurture the environment. When the environment is destroyed and seen as source of profit by the few, it is always the most vulnerable sectors of society who suffer when a disaster strikes. Given also the high vulnerability of the region to disasters and with climate change, we need to rally all sectors and communities to defend their ancestral lands against the entry of large scale dams and mining corporations.
We also need to increase the capacity of sectors and communities on Disaster Risk Management and Reduction. It is by empowering our communities on disaster preparedness, response, planning and management that we can make our communities safer and resilient. ***