Major PH cities face climate change risks, says study

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By KC Santos

MAKATI CITY, METRO MANILA – A recent study on climate change revealed that government, local and private institutions must look into investing on the strengths of their cities to better prepare for a “climate-defined future.”

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines), in partnership with the Bank of the Philippine Islands Foundation, recently completed a Climate Risk Assessment Study which revealed the city-specific socio-economic baseline data on four prime Philippine cities namely Cebu, Davao, Baguio and Iloilo.

Using a three-vector analysis method including climate and environmental exposure, socio-economic sensitivity and adaptive capacity recorded using a 20-year period historical data, the research group was able to gauge the cities’ level of vulnerability to extreme climate events and how possibly, the stakeholders can focus on more than just the environmental stakes.

“This is not the future, this is already happening. The challenges are overwhelming but they have to believe that humankind has the capacity and the opportunity to surmount climate change. If they don’t believe then we are just wasting our time,’” said WWF Vice-Chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan.

Through a series of scenario-building exercises conducted in the four cities, WWF-Philippines was able to determine how indicators of climate change like salt-water intrusion, drought, even heavy rainfall in these cities can open opportunities for revenue in the long run.

With each of the cities having their respective strengths and weaknesses, Tan said the ultimate goal of the study is to see the entire spectrum of opportunity present even in these challenges.

“Baguio for example is the most vulnerable to climate change with the highest number of landslides due to constant rainfall and being the most densely populated but they still remain salt-water dependent for their resources. Why not collect all that rain and find a place where it’s highly needed and collect revenue from it?” Tan said.

Despite being one of the least vulnerable to climate change with only 20 typhoons recorded in the last 20 years, Tan said Cebu must channel its investments to more “climate-proof” infrastructure and technology citing the need to construct more air links.

Iloilo, being naturally flood-prone must monitor its strategies toward urbanization amid the problem on rising sea levels to its reclaimed land, which increases the possibility of salt-water intrusion in the communities.

For its agricultural bounty and vast land area, Davao is declared the least vulnerable with the biggest room for the promotion and practice of sustainability in its integral area development.

During his presentation, Tan also reported that the country suffers from a lackluster if not fully deficient data-banking system and stressed that the bigger problem is in its poor use.

“Culling information from these cities to produce this study is like pulling teeth. Data is there but we don’t know whether it’s used for contingency. However, data deficiency must not be a hindrance since these problems can be solved by simple common sense,” Tan said.

To help alleviate its long term effects, Tan said that it’s important for institutions to acknowledge the importance of finding more eco-friendly solutions for the development of their city and the country in general.

“It’s not right to blame climate change, it’s actually human footprint that aggravates the situation but that doesn’t mean that this cannot be managed. That’s why it’s important that we impose rules,” Tan said.

WWF visited the four cities to brief the governing bodies on adaptive strategy to climate change. Four more cities in Luzon and Mindanao are slated to be covered by the study in 2012.

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