Eleventh Hour: Filipino food threatened by climate change

By Roxanne Omega Doron


Being aware and involved in projects and initiatives tackling the state of the Filipino food industry opened my eyes to the imminent danger of losing delicious Filipino dishes because of the climate crisis.

In celebration of the Filipino Food Month last April, I attended the KAIN Conference (KainCon), a three-day event hosted by Jose Rizal University last April 3 to 5, 2023.

This year’s conference, with the theme “Shaping the Future of Philippine Culinary Heritage and Gastronomy,” brought together Filipino farmers, culinary historians, chefs, researchers from the academe, students, and gastronomic experts to discuss the need for more local food cultivation and food preservation initiatives.

Prior to attending this conference, I contributed to the development of the paper entitled “Making Creativity Count: Operationalizing Statistical Mapping of Four Creative and Cultural Sectors under the Philippine Cultural Statistics Framework” as part of the research team on Philippine gastronomy for Iloilo.

This research project was implemented by De La Salle University Center for Business Research and Development in collaboration with the Creative Economy Council of the Philippines and with kind support from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

Back in 2020, I also served as a panelist in the forum “Food for Heroes” hosted by Palm Grass at The Cebu Heritage Hotel, which delved into the food our heroes and pre-colonial ancestors planted, nurtured, and consumed. During the forum, it was revealed that their diet protected them from diseases brought by colonizers.

There is a growing importance to preserve our culinary heritage and the Philippine gastronomy industry, which is closely linked to the state and challenges of our agricultural sector.

But despite its growing popularity as an essential component of our economy, together with tourism, the impacts of the climate crisis in our culinary heritage and food industry, at the same time the food industry’s role in addressing the climate crisis, they all remain at the backburner of national consciousness.

Land and water are essential components of a thriving food industry

Undeniably, climate change can significantly impact soil quality and potable water supply.

During the interviews I conducted with fisherfolk and farmers, they mentioned that the changing climate significantly contributed to and affected their fisheries and agricultural output.

Soil quality is affected by climate change and can lead to changes in temperature, precipitation, and other environmental factors. We are currently experiencing extreme and intolerable heat. This increase in temperature can cause soil to dry out, reducing its fertility and consequently making it vulnerable to erosion, affecting the health of our crops.

Water availability is critical for agriculture to thrive, and climate change can significantly impact the water supply. The loss of water supply affects human consumption and our ecosystems. Like its impact on soil fertility, temperature changes and precipitation patterns threaten our water security.

With some regions in the Philippines now experiencing frequent and severe droughts while others experiencing intense rainfall and flooding, crop yields are affected because water for irrigation is undermined.

The availability of fertile soil and water in our agricultural lands is crucial in harvesting the crops we need to cook our most cherished Filipino dishes.

Economic viability and sustainability of Filipino food 

The Philippine food industry is a significant contributor to our local economy. However, climate change is threatening the economic viability and sustainability of the country’s food production system, which may lead to economic losses and productivity disruptions in our farms.

For one, climate change is posing a significant threat to rice production across the country. Rising temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns will reduce crop yield and diminish food quality. Increased frequency of extreme weather events like typhoons, floods, and droughts due to climate change can lead to crop losses and agriculture-related infrastructure damages.

It is now timely and urgent to develop climate-resilient food systems that can adapt to the various impacts of changing weather patterns with the crucial participation of affected communities. The promotion of sustainable agriculture practices and agroforestry, as well as alternative food sources which are more resilient to the impacts of climate change, is critical now more than ever.

Food culture of indigenous people

Filipino indigenous food culture is also vital in protecting Filipino food against the threat of climate change. It has an irreplaceable role in the knowledge of local and traditional food sources, including the traditional food preservation methods that can help sustainably manage our food.

We can learn so much from their existing century-old traditional knowledge and practices on food production. Only by engaging with indigenous communities and valuing their vast knowledge and practices can we live up to this year’s Filipino Food Month theme “Pagkaing Sariling Atin, Mahalin at Pagyamanin.”



This article was originally published on The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ weekly column for the Manila Bulletin called Eleventh Hour.

This column serves a digital space to discuss our organization’s work on supporting the country’s just transition into a clean, affordable, and self-sufficient energy system; advancing sustainable urban mobility to highlight the issues of equity and democracy; and raising public awareness about the need to phase out single-use plastics. It also serves as a platform for Pinoy Climate Reality Leaders to share your stories, promote your climate initiatives, and provide critical insights to issues that matter to climate action, environmental protection, and sustainable development.