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El Niño in the Philippines: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe
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El Niño in the Philippines: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe

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Summer in the Philippines is hotter than ever—quite literally.

In fact, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has raised the El Niño Alert status from 55% to 80% probability between June and August this year. Filipinos can expect below-normal rainfall conditions, dry spells, and droughts until March 2024.

El Niño in the Philippines isn’t new, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protect yourself from this climate pattern. If you’re wondering how El Niño can affect you, you’ve come to the right place! We’ll discuss what El Niño is, its impact on the Philippines, and how to prepare for and cope with its effects.

What's El Niño: What Causes It and How Does it Affect the Philippines?

El Niño is a climate pattern that occurs when sea surface temperatures (SST) over the Central and Eastern Pacific Oceans warm up and affect air and sea currents. It increases the likelihood of below-normal rainfall conditions, potentially causing dry spells, droughts, and other adverse environmental effects.

El Niño in the Philippines typically happens once every two to seven years, with the last occurring from the fourth quarter of 2018 to the third quarter of 2019. 

Aside from the environmental impacts, El Niño can negeatively affect the Philippine economy. It can hurt households because more than 20% of the local labor force relies on agriculture, which is vulnerable to droughts. El Niño occurrences in the past even reduced rice production by 20% and affected the electricity supply since some power plants depend on dams.

Understanding El Niño vs. La Niña

While El Niño refers to the warming of the Central and Eastern Pacific Oceans, La Niña is the cooling of the same region. It strengthens trade winds and pushes more cool water to the surface, increasing rainfall and cooling temperatures in the western Pacific and Southeast Asia, including the Philippines. In contrast to El Niño’s droughts, La Niña often results in flooding, landslides, and frequent and intense typhoons. 

However, these two climate patterns similarly affect the Philippine economy. For instance, destructive tropical cyclones in 2022, like typhoons Karding and Paeng, ruined billions’ worth of crops, livestock, and other goods. La Niña also displaced thousands of Filipinos and derailed inflation forecasts. 

How Can You Prepare for and Cope with El Niño?

As climate change intensifies, El Niño’s effects will likely worsen and harm livelihoods. As such, you must learn how to prepare and cope with this phenomenon. Below are some El Niño tips to help you weather its effects.

How to Prepare

  • Monitor Weather Forecasts and Advisories
    Stay updated with weather forecasts and advisories from PAGASA and other authorities, including news about El Niño conditions and the expected impacts in your region. Doing this will help you make informed decisions and take necessary precautions.
  • Store Enough Water and Food Supplies
    Water scarcity can happen during El Niño, so ensure you have enough water in clean containers. If possible, collect rainwater for non-potable uses. Additionally, stock up on non-perishable food items for adequate food supply during potential disruption.
  • Install Water-Saving Devices at Home
    Consider fitting faucets with aerators and installing low-flow showerheads to reduce water consumption, making your household more resilient to water shortages.
  • Take Care of Your Physical Health
    El Niño often causes epidemics of diseases typically occurring during the hot season, such as cholera, chikungunya, and Zika virus. As such, always drink clean water, get the necessary vaccines, and wear insect repellant to protect and even boost your health and well-being. 

How to Cope

  • Stay Cool and Hydrated
    Temperatures get unusually high during El Niño. Stay in well-ventilated spaces or use fans or air conditioning to keep your body temperature cool and avoid heat stroke. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty, to stay properly hydrated.
  • Avoid Outdoor Activities during the Hottest Hours
    Minimize exposure to extreme heat by staying in from late morning to early afternoon, as they’re usually the hottest hours of the day. If you truly need to go out, seek shaded areas and take frequent breaks in cool or air-conditioned spaces.
  • Wear Protective Clothing and Sunscreen
    Wearing lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing can also protect you from the sun’s harmful rays when outside. Additionally, apply sunscreen with a high sun protection factor to your body’s exposed areas, such as your face, neck, arms, and legs. 
  • Contribute to Sustainability Solutions
    El Niño affects everyone, regardless of age, status, location, and other demographics. Engaging in sustainability programs may help us combat this phenomenon and reap long-term benefits. For instance, you can support tree-planting initiatives at the comfort of your home. Globe’s GForest, found in GCash app, allows you to reforest the Philippines—one tree at a time.

    If you have the time and resources, you may collaborate with your local government unit or a disaster management agency to share information, create strategies, and encourage more civilian participation in climate change solutions.

Beat the El Niño Heat!

While the Philippines typically experiences hot weather, rising temperatures due to climate change are out of the ordinary and cause challenges to people in the country. El Niño can disrupt livelihoods, lead to environmental destruction, and harm lives. It’s essential to understand its consequences, and implement proactive measures to protect yourself, your communities, and the environment.

Share and take advantage of the pointers above to prepare for and cope with El Niño this and in the coming years. Remember that knowledge is power, and you can make a difference when working with others toward a better future. 

Globe is committed to bringing ordinary people, private institutions, and local governments together to save the environment and make the world better for future generations. Join us in our environmental campaigns to support our commitment to sustainability and a greener future.

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