Philippines Closes Schools as Heat Soars to ‘Danger’ Level

The Philippines closed all public schools on Monday and Tuesday because of dangerously high temperatures, moving classes online in a country where schools are typically shut because of tropical storms.

Over the past week, average temperatures in many parts of the country topped 40 degrees Celsius, or 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme heat is forecast this week to blanket almost the entire country, with the heat index in some regions rising to at least 42 degrees Celsius, or “danger” level, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration. That designation is the second highest on the agency’s heat index scale. It advised people to avoid exposure to the sun or risk heat stroke, heat exhaustion and cramps.

In metropolitan Manila, where the heat index is forecast to hit 45 degrees Celsius early this week, residents in overcrowded slums have been cooling off by setting up colorful inflatable pools on busy roads. Others in this megacity have been dipping into Manila Bay, flouting rules that prohibit swimming in its polluted waters.

In its advisory on school closures, the Department of Education on Sunday said the extreme weather coincided with a nationwide strike of jeepneys, the colorful, open-air vehicles that are the main mode of public transportation in the Philippines. Jeepney drivers are protesting a government plan to phase out their rides — which trace their origins to U.S. military jeeps — and replace them with modern, more energy-efficient minibuses.

The extreme heat had already forced some schools to cancel classes before the government’s call for closures. The Jesus Good Shepherd School in Imus, a city south of Manila, last week sent students back home because of soaring temperatures, even though the private institution is among the small minority of schools in the country that has an air conditioner in every classroom.

Most schools in the Philippines, like this one in Quezon City, do not have air-conditioned classrooms. Credit…Lisa Marie David/Reuters

“It is hard for the students and teachers alike to concentrate, because the air-con is struggling, too,” said Ana Marie Macarimbang, a fifth-grade teacher at the school who has taught for nearly two decades. “We are in a tropical country, yes, but the heat now is more intense than I can remember.”

Weather-related school closures in the Philippines have historically been more common during the typhoon season, which peaks between July and October. The current closures, teacher’s groups have contended, could have been avoided had the authorities not changed the school calendar after the pandemic. The school year now runs from August to May, roughly, rather than the former June-to-March schedule.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has said that he has no objections to readjusting the school calendar, and blamed climate change for the extreme heat. The government “really didn’t expect it to be like this,” Mr. Marcos said earlier this month.

Extreme temperatures are also disrupting everyday life in other parts of Asia, including Cambodia and Vietnam. Earlier this month, a heat wave forced schools in Bangladesh and India to close.

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