The Philippines are commonly regarded as a disaster prone country. It is located near S. East China and North of Indonesia. It accounts for 7100 islands and it has an equatorial rainforest climate. It generally has a middling income level with a GDP around 11,700.
With a rapidly growing population and industrialisation hazards are becoming more of an issue in this country.
First I am looking at Typhoons, the Philippines is unfortunately in a prime location being between 5-10 degrees of latitude and the ideal sea temperatures are reached in the S. China Sea. The removal of the mangrove swamps and introduction of coastal development has dramatically increased the danger that typhoons pose due to increased population density and the energy sapping mangrove swamps being removed. They commonly hit areas on the East Coast of Luzon due to the often high winds and storm surges. In the tropical cyclone season, June to November, there are on average 7 destructive cyclones per year causing 529 deaths and $68 million dollars in damage.
Heavily related to typhoons are floods, the Philippines has an average annual precipitation level of 2083mm due to the heavy rain associated with typhoon season. Take for example, Manila, the capital of Luzon is especially vulnerable due to its steep relief from mountain areas, can cause flash flooding which in turn creates the problem of rapid surface run-off which can have a devastating effect in a matter of minutes. To add to this, the lowland areas in the Philippines can also be gravely affected, especially in floodplains which are often used for either agriculture or sometimes urban development. The latter can of course prove problematic, for example if a flash flood, sweeps away a field, few to no people will be killed but there will be a large amount of collateral damage. However if it is an urbanised area there will be a high amount of collateral damage as well as human casualties or fatalities, an example of such an urbanised area would be Manila, which has little drainage, and many shanty towns on the peripheral areas which are most at risk.
Contrary to the previous paragraph, drought is also a serious problem in the Philippines, both in the 1980’s and also in the 1990’s there have been detrimental four year droughts for example a report in 1998 Aid workers in the Philippines say ‘up to three-and-a-half million people in the southern island of Mindanao need emergency food supplies because of a famine resulting from a prolonged drought in the region. Correspondents say Mindanao has suffered from an eight-month drought which has been attributed on the El Nino weather phenomenon.’From the newsroom of the BBC World Service. ‘ Less than 40 percent of average rain has fallen on the island of Mindanao, causing shortages of electricity and consequent daily 12-hour power cuts. According to the Director of the Philippine Atmosphere Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, Dr. Romal Kintanar, climatological data shows that over the past 30 years the Philippines has experienced seven severe droughts. The 1982-83 event was the worst in 20 years.’ GREENPEACE Climate Impacts Database. Due to such droughts, bush fires and the stunting of agricultural production are key issues when addressing the secondary effects related to drought.
Fire can be considered a key hazard, in the period between January and June, the Philippines is renowned for having a fire season and the dense forest cover increases the risk of both ignition and also sustainability. For it is uncommon for fire not to transfer from tree to tree. The fire can be accelerated further by the dry season with high and dry temperatures and high winds which allow the through-flow of air into the high risk area giving it the three things needed for an ignition; fuel – trees and other foliage, oxygen – from winds, ignition system – from cigarette butt or lightening. Where did these parameters come from? The answer is climate change, the sudden increase in not only temperature during the dry season but extremes of both hot and cold have caused problems for many countries as well as the Philippines. Not only does the high wind allow a fire to start it also causes rapid spreading for example the 1998 wildfires which extended to 80 different locations, some of which on different islands. Most geographers believe this is due to the infamous El Nino.
Looking now at tectonic hazards, Earthquakes seem a prominent and frequently occurring event in the country. The Philippines is unfortunately located on two subduction zones.