I was born and raised in Cebu, one of the regions that have been hit by Typhoon Haiyan. My heart has been aching since I've heard that my country was going to be hit by Haiyan and when I heard of casualties in Tacloban, with a government official reporting of 10,000 people to have died in that region alone, it was what triggered me to break down and cry. I couldn't stop my tears. As I was reading my Facebook newsfeed and receiving calls and texts from friends and family, it showed me that the rest of the world was crying for my country too.
Typhoon Haiyan is known as the most intense tropical cyclone recorded in history and the strongest to have ever hit land. It's impact has affected nine million people, leaving over 600,000 homeless, many others going without food and clean water for days, and children getting sick, without the medicine to alleviate their sickness. The death toll is rising by the minute, the power lines are down -- and could be down for months, and the roads are impassable. It's a desperate situation. With a population of over 85 million, spread over 7,100 islands, it is very difficult to get aid to the Central region which have been impacted most. Our friends on the ground distributing the relief goods are reporting back to us on the urgency of getting the relief goods out to the survivors and that the ones they are distributing doesn't match the needs. It's a desperate situation.
The damage of Haiyan is yet unknown. What we do know is that Haiyan got so strong due to the warming ocean temperatures. "We are putting 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere everyday -- equivalent to 400,000 hiroshima atomic bombs going off every 24 hours," Al Gore explains in an interview. "Tropical cyclones are basically giant heat engines," weather expert Brian Mcnoldy describes. The accumulated climate change pollution caused by human activities traps extra heat and as the oceans warm with climate change, there is extra energy in the system. "Storms may not be increasing in frequency but Pacific ocean waters are warming faster than expected, and there is a broad scientific consensus that typhoons are now increasing in strength," John Vidal, environmental expert explains.
The Philippines is the third most vulnerable country to climate change impacts and the number one country in the world for deaths caused by natural disasters. We also are hit with an average of 20 typhoons annually. Super Typhoon Haiyan moved twice as fast as Typhoon Bopha last December -- where 1,900 died and leaving 1.2 million people displaced. Typhoon Bopha was the costliest natural disaster in Philippines history -- costing $1 billion in damages.
Like all other developing countries, the Philippines plays a minor role in global carbon emissions (Philippines contributes to 0.28 percent of carbon dioxide emissions while the top 10 countries in the world emit 67.07 percent of the world total) and yet suffers an inordinately higher cost. "We lose five percent of our of our economy every year to storms," Philippine climate change commissioner, Naderev Sano, says.
Though our efforts are not enough in building resilient and adaptation infrastructures enabling us to withstand the natural disasters that hit us, the Philippines has significant renewable energy resources. Nearly 39 percent of the Philippines' energy requirements are from renewable sources. In installed renewable energy capacity, Philippines is seventh in Asia and 33rd globally. The country is the second largest geothermal power producer in the world, the 1.65 MW turbines Bangui Bay Wind farm is Southeast Asia's first and largest wind farm, the 1 MW PV solar plant in Cagayan Oro is the first utility-scale PV plant in Southeast Asia. Philippines has also committed to an ambitious renewable energy target of 50 percent under its Renewable Energy Act by 2030. This Act is highly championed by experts as the best renewable energy law crafted in Asia. This goes to show that as a developing country, we are contributing to the dire solutions that this world needs. However, we certainly do not have enough resources to be able to afford in building resilient infrastructures and adaptation measures to withstand climate catastrophes that are hitting us continuously. What gives me hope are the Filipino people. We have resiliency in our people, and that is what makes our country resilient.
As a response to the Typhoon, my friends and I collaborated our efforts and created the "Bundles of Joy and Letters of Hope" project the day after Haiyan had hit. We are a group of young women mobilizing at a grassroots level to deliver essential supplies to the Haiyan survivors in desperate need. We only work with communities that are familiar to us, and the areas that has not already been reached by other relief operations based on the Inventory of Disaster Relief Efforts by Ramon Aboitiz Foundation (RAFI).
It has been empowering to see that since we've launched Bundles of Joy, we've received donations from around the world, enough to provide a few hundred Bundles of Joy to Typhoon victims in five regions and we've received interest from people globally to volunteer with us. We've received letters of hope from people all over the world who would like to show solidarity to the Typhoon Haiyan survivors. Craig Hazeldene from Tasmania, Australia writes:
Please keep your faith and know that the world outside your own is working hard to ensure you receive the water, food, medicines and essential services you so desperately need. The world cries with you, I cry with you, but together, with the amazing spirit of the Filipinos we will overcome, you will triumph over adversity as you have so often in the past.
These beautiful letters from all over the world are sent with our Bundles of Joy to uplift the spirits of Haiyan survivors. There are also many international NGOs on the ground like Red Cross, Save the Children, Gawad Kalinga, ShelterBox, who are working on immediate and long term efforts. I urge you to support them as help is needed urgently -- not tomorrow, but now.
Typhoon Haiyan may have been one of the strongest typhoons to hit land in history, but I am convinced that the worst has yet to come. It is unfortunate that hundreds and thousands of lives will have to be spared until the world realizes just how dire our situation is. More lives will be lost, more tears will shed and more hearts will have to break if we don't act now.