In Wake of Bopha, Philippines tells COP18: 'Open Your Eyes'

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Common Dreams

In Wake of Bopha, Philippines tells COP18: 'Open Your Eyes'

As death toll reaches over 350, Filipino delegates make impassioned plea to international negotiators

by
Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Taken on Sunday, this photograph shows the view from the International Space Station as Typhoon Bopha prepares to slam into the Philippines. (Photo: Kevin Ford / NASA)

With over 350 of his countrymen dead and more than 400 still missing two days after Typhoon Bopha racked the island nation, the lead Filipino delegate made a emotional plea to his fellow COP18 negotiators: "I appeal to the whole world, I appeal to leaders from all over the world, to open our eyes to the stark reality that we face."

According to experts, the unusual strength, path and unseasonal timing of Bopha, known as Pablo in the Philippines, is emblematic of to the "new normal" of climate change. The New York Times reports:

It washed away entire villages and hamlets; wiped out roads and bridges; flattened cornfields and banana plantations; wrecked fishing fleets; and buried homes under landslides and walls of mud.

In some towns, dead bodies were gathered together in rows, their faces covered by tarpaulins, sodden blankets or palm fronds.

The National Disaster Agency reportedly estimates 379 deaths, so far. With the mounting death toll and widespread destruction, the devastating effects of global warming is foremost on the minds of the Filipino delegates at the COP 18 climate talks in Doha, Qatar.

Senior diplomat Naderev Saño broke down partway through a prepared statement he gave Thursday during a full plenary session at the climate conference. "He wanted to relate the tortured negotiations to the tragedy unfolding in his own country," The Guardian writes.

I appeal to all, please, no more delays, no more excuses. Please, let Doha be remembered as the place where we found the political will to turn things around.

Saño's statement:

As we sit here in these negotiations, even as we vacillate and procrastinate here, the death toll is rising. There is massive and widespread devastation. Hundreds of thousands of people have been rendered without homes. And the ordeal is far from over, as typhoon Bopha has regained some strength as it approaches another populated area in the western part of the Philippines.

Madam chair, we have never had a typhoon like Bopha, which has wreaked havoc in a part of the country that has never seen a storm like this in half a century. And heartbreaking tragedies like this are not unique to the Philippines, because the whole world, especially developing countries struggling to address poverty and achieve social and human development, confront these same realities.

Madam chair, I speak on behalf of 100 million Filipinos, a quarter of a million of whom are eeking out a living working here in Qatar [as migrant laborers]. And I am making an urgent appeal, not as a negotiator, not as a leader of my delegation, but as a Filipino …

I appeal to the whole world, I appeal to leaders from all over the world, to open our eyes to the stark reality that we face. I appeal to ministers. The outcome of our work is not about what our political masters want. It is about what is demanded of us by 7 billion people.

I appeal to all, please, no more delays, no more excuses. Please, let Doha be remembered as the place where we found the political will to turn things around. Please, let 2012 be remembered as the year the world found the courage to find the will to take responsibility for the future we want. I ask of all of us here, if not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?

Thank you madam chair.

Afterwards, Saño told the Guardian that despite the enormous financial loss (nearly 5% of their GDP each year) attributed to these dramatic global-warming induced mega storms, the country has "received no climate finance to adapt or to prepare ourselves for typhoons and other extreme weather we are now experiencing."

His comments come a day after the United States and the European Union "refused to contribute to 'climate funding' for developing nations." Saño continued:

We have not seen any money from the rich countries to help us to adapt. So more and more people die every year. I feel very frustrated. I was very emotional because it tears your heart out when you know your people are feeling the impact. We cannot go on like this. It cannot be a way of life that we end up running always from storms.

You feel frustrated when the UN process does not work. We always go to the brink in the negotiations. That is a bad sign. Climate change negotiations cannot be based on the way we currently measure progress. It is a clear sign of planetary and economic and environmental dysfunction.

You can watch Saño's statement in the video below:

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