Why the Kidapawan massacre is a climate issue

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The Kidapawan massacre and the Syrian refugee crisis demonstrate an interesting parallel.

According to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, a torrent of climate refugees will be a new challenge if world leaders fail to forge an ambitious, robust, and binding global climate deal in Paris held in December 2015. He emphasized that climate change is “one of the root causes” of the refugee crisis that sprang from Syria.

Recall how over 9 million Syrians had fled their homes since the outbreak of civil war in March 2011. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 3 million had migrated to Syria’s immediate neighbors Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. 6.5 million were internally displaced within Syria.

Based on a report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, drought, in addition to the mismanagement by the Assad regime, contributed to the massive displacement in Syria. It argues that the long drying trend in the region had led to social unrest.

The Philippines itself is no stranger to long periods of drought. Earlier in 2015, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warned that the country is likely to face up to 6 straight months of drought from July to December. The weather agency also noted that the El Niño phenomenon could intensify and persist until early 2016.

Following a similar plot, the Kidapawan massacre is also an episode of public turbulence caused by human interference with the climate.

Last March 30, farmers in North Cotabato were demanding the immediate release of calamity aids from the local government. They had been experiencing severe hunger because of the extended periods of drought in the area that greatly affected their crops.

The farmers took to the streets their protest of the government’s failure to deliver on its promise to provide relief goods after declaring the province to be under a state of calamity.

The situation went worse when a number of protesters began attacking policemen escorting a group of social workers out to rescue minors in the barricade set up along the Davao-Cotabato Highway in Kidapawan City. At least one farmer died while a dozen others were wounded after the violent clash between the two parties.

Walking the UN Climate Talks

During his speech for the leaders event of the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris, France, President Benigno S. Aquino III said that the Philippines continues to pursue vital reforms to address climate change.

He said that the country is willing to share its experience, knowledge, and best practices like the so-called massive re-greening program that started in 2011. Aquino bragged that the goal of this program is to plant 1.5 billion trees on 1.5 million hectares in 2016, which would translate to an absorption capacity of 30 million tons of carbon annually.

What he perhaps failed to mention before his fellow world leaders is the 50 coal power plants he approved to operate under his administration.

Indeed, the Paris Agreement adopted last year reflects the collective vision of 195 participating countries that signed the deal. So many grandiose speeches were delivered and promises made. But the question remains: how sincere are our leaders in implementing these policies?

These climate policies need more teeth to be in full effect. We need to incentivize the use of green energy and strongly discourage the utilization of coal as fuel. We need a sound agricultural policy that truly addresses the needs of the farmers, such as irrigation and credit facilities. But most of all, we need leaders who can stand up for the planet and are serious in achieving their goals of reducing dangerous greenhouse gases, so we may not risk soaring over the 2-degree mark.

Break free from fossil fuels

The threatening effects of climate change are all-encompassing. Disruption of climate patterns is not only an environmental issue; food security, public health, and even national safety can all be linked to climate.

The Kidapawan bloodshed and the Syrian refugee crisis show us how its effects can lead to social unrest, which can ultimately precipitate a civil war. Being one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, it is puzzling how the Philippines can champion a strong global climate deal and at the same time continue to fuel its economy through burning coal.

If we continue to allow the operation of coal power plants in the country, then we can expect even drier and longer droughts in the next few years, and therefore, a replay of these tragedies in the near future.

[Photo courtesy Anakpawis.]

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About Roy Joseph Roberto

Roy Joseph Roberto is a Climate Tracker of the Adopt a Negotiator Project. He is currently part of BREAK FREE!, a worldwide online writing campaign against fossil fuels.

27 Comments on “Why the Kidapawan massacre is a climate issue”

  1. Much of the Philippines is in climate denial. Many believe that for as long as it isn’t happening to them directly, they won’t be affected and thus they don’t need to act on it.

    The Kidapawan farmers were affected, and reacted to this. It was unfortunate that some of them died, but the more that Filipinos deny the changes in climate just because it doesn’t affect them directly, there will be more deadly incidents like this.

  2. Filipino farmers, more than anybody else, should understand that the government doesn’t give a shit about the people.

    Their only hope is to help themselves. Nobody else is going to. And they can only do that by admitting the problem – they are growing crops which are inappropriate for the climate (as it is now). Once that is done, they need to get together and make the necessary changes: adopt modern methods of farming for wet/dry climates; locate new varieties suitable for their situation and propagate them; and give each other financial support.

    Protesting is a waste of time and energy that could be better spent on making a better life for themselves. Surely they know that the only response from the Palace is going to be “let them eat cake”.

  3. In part I agree with Marius (his top, first sentence only).
    If I am unemployed being an engineer, I can protest and sit on my ass. But I will not do that. I will re-educate myself, go back to school and learn a new trade. A trade that is more in demand and is not dependent from climate/weather.

    I am truely sorry but I miss that rationale thinking in those stupid farmers.

    1. Oh, good. That’s a relief. Obviously, the fact that all the farmers in my area have observed the climate changing are all just liars, and their crop failures due to rainy-season shifts are purely imaginary.

      Honestly, if they weren’t illiterate and therefore incapable of reading news and research papers about climate change, they’d probably believe all kinds of nonsense, eh?

      1. There have and are going to be weather/climate cycles. A local weather condition sustained over a relatively short period of time does not constitute man made climate change.

        The fact is that despite all the lies and skewed data being manipulated, there is no evidence of global warming.

        I won’t call the poor farmers liars. But I will say people like you manipulate them for your own beliefs and motivations. You use them like pawns.

        1. >> There is no evidence of global warming.

          True enough, if you make sure to lock yourself in your room and studiously avoid looking for it.

          >> But I will say people like you manipulate them for your own beliefs and motivations. You use them like pawns.

          That’s hilarious, Tom. I stay out of their way most of the time because I don’t want to get involved in their petty feuds. I have no idea what possible benefit I could get from “using them like pawns”.

          They know the climate changing. They plant their seeds at the same time Granddad did and it doesn’t work. This isn’t some theory dreamed up by politicians. If you want to sit there like Canute with the waves lapping at your feet, you go right ahead. Farmers whose lives depend on making adaptations need to adapt.

          >> If global warming is real, then why does the NOAA’s own data show no warming for 58 years?

          It doesn’t. Go and look at the source data. Seriously, I don’t know why people who sat at the back of highschool science class throwing spitballs at each other have suddenly decided they’re all climate experts.

    2. Yup, I agree. The ongoing drought in Mindanao isn’t really happening. It is just a lie that the rice crop has all died, as is the lie about most of Northern Luzon being in a similar drought with rice, corn onions and even mangoes dying. Even though it has not rained in about 6 years in Syria, they have plenty of water and so the farmers have really left their farms for vacations in Damascus, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. The whole thing is a scam and none of these things are really happening. The whole world drying up is just a movie.

      What ISN’T just a movie is that the monsoon season in Tagaytay is starting to end now and the dry season is getting ready to start, so why hasn’t it rained in almost 2 months and giant cracks appearing in my lawn?

    1. Ah, Natural News, one of the sites that believe every major event like World War 2 or the Holocaust are fake, and everything you see in pictures are “actors.” And that reptilian aliens are our presidents and politicians. Need to sniff a bit more glue.

  4. climate change is mother nature. no one could beat it. run the Bataan Nuclear Plant and provide deep well water, there the problem is solved.

    1. er, no it isn’t. Where do you think recharge water comes from ariba? If you have a dry or unpredictable climate, you have to use methods of agriculture adapted to that. There’s nothing wrong with technology, but using sledgehammers to crack nut-sized problems is a sure sign the problem has not been understood.

  5. what if the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant were running full bore, and an earthquake of 7.9 or more happened (a la Fukushima)?
    and since most rivers here are polluted, and deep wells also in danger of that, to rely on deep wells as an important source of potable water is asking for trouble.
    but what about desalination plants? sure, they produce potable water, but the startup costs are humongous.
    there is a solution, but it won’t be easy.

    as Giuseppe di Lampedusa put it in The Leopard,
    “For things to stay the same, things have got to change.”

  6. In a poverty stricken country where famine and drought is normalcy. There is unified notion that is inherent its beyond control. But unlike Philippines where the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. Its simply injustice thats why there is always chaos and division. Rich or poor Mother Nature is always in control.

  7. Syrian Refugees was caused by the ISIS Caliphate, and the civil war in Syria.

    Kidapawan massacre was caused by the Aquino administration, not listening to the demands of the starving farmers.

    Climate change may be a factor…but, it is not the major factor in this refugee problems.

    The Climate will continue, to wreck havoc on this Planet Earth; because, we have been abusing Mother Earth, for so long…so, it has to fight back. Expect more disasters, in this coming years…more problems for mankind…

  8. Why exactly doesn’t the Philippines make use of solar power? Rather than the hydroelectricity they use here in Davao that predictably dries up every summer, supplemented by coal plants that keep breaking down.

    1. No company doing that is seeking regulatory capture for the government. At least, not this far. Except for the one recently inaugurated in Cebu.

    2. It is, I believe, because of a comment made by our delightful intellectually-challenged president, something along the lines of: “what are we going to do when the sun stops shining at night?”.

      My, how everyone laughed.

      The BOC, of course, does it part by making sure that only the shittiest PV panels can reach the general public, at massively inflated prices, thereby reinforcing the public perception that solar is unreliable and expensive.

      Me personally, I use solar on the farm. It’s awesome.

      1. Thanks for the replies. I know that some solar companies in Australia and elsewhere use cheap Chinese-made panels that are still decent, so cost shouldn’t be an issue unless someone decides to make it one.

        1. >> unless someone decides to make it one.

          Bingo.

          Leave it the the Philippine government to make everything several times more expensive than it needs to be.

      2. In the future, our energy will be beamed from space via microwave:

        Space-Based Power Stations

        “The reason for converting energy to microwaves is because it’s impervious to weather condition and water in the upper atmosphere. In its broad-beam form, microwaves become safe for birds and insects to fly through.”

        People with great minds are already working on it. Pinoys can just sit back, relax and watch how everything will be given to them on a silver platter.

        1. Nevermind the future, zaxx. Filipino farmers are living in the 17th century, and they need solutions that work now. The government is deliberately withholding those solutions to keep them poor, stupid, and exploitable.

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