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Thursday, November 27, 2014

16 Philippine Cities Underwent Climate Change Adaptation Assessment


The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Foundation have completed Business Risk Assessment and the Management of Climate Impacts – a four-year, 16-city study to prepare the largest Philippine cities for escalating climate change effects.

Initiated in 2011, the study’s first phase covered the cities of Baguio, Cebu, Davao and Iloilo. Its second assessed Cagayan de Oro, Dagupan, Laoag and Zamboanga. The cities of Angeles, Batangas, Naga and Tacloban were evaluated in 2013. For 2014, Butuan, General Santos, Puerto Princesa and Santiago were covered.

Vulnerability scores were generated from 20-year historical city-level data on climate exposure, socioeconomic drivers, and adaptive capacities. Multi-stakeholder Scenario Building Exercises that looked 20 years into the future also contributed to the scores. Think-tank Brain Trust, Inc. facilitated the exercises.

All in all, the study looks at a 40-year timeline.

BPI Foundation, whose initiatives cover education, entrepreneurship and the environment, strongly encourages local leaders and business groups to make use of the study to bolster economic competitiveness and provide social safety nets in gearing up for the impacts of climate change. Says BPI SVP and BPI Foundation Executive Director Faye Corcuera, “We can climate-proof our cities if we act decisively. By gearing up for climate change, we can protect businesses and save lives.”

Some Patterns and Solutions

By nature, cities are resource-scarce. A resilient city takes responsibility for renewing its resources. This stabilizes shared value chains and creates new wealth.

Says WWF-Philippines Vice Chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, “A city has to look at sustainability founded on balanced growth that feeds on shared value. This will translate to greater competitiveness. But, it must be founded on renewal. We must put back what we have taken out.”

In many of the 16 cities assessed, it was evident that local initiatives were by and large reactive, rather than pro-active. Within these Philippine cities, the study shows that the level of preparedness of local governments, businesses and residents requires further improvement.

The four-year study also observed that a combination of predictable weather and vast lands create migratory sinks – creating hubs that attract population, including refugees displaced by climate change impacts and conflict.  In anticipation, cities that are already showing abnormally high rates of in-migration should be undertaking in-depth reviews of their land use plans.

As urbanization advances, agriculture retreats. This pattern underscores the vital importance of urban-rural linkages – particularly for larger cities that have become almost entirely dependent on external sources for essential supplies of food, water, energy, as well as their work force.

There is a need to balance urban development and agricultural self-sufficiency, while investing in a multi-sourced supply of resources. As we face a climate-defined future, our collective challenge is to figure out how to sustainably produce more with less.

Another key pattern observed was the need to ensure the viability of access and transport. A great deal of the infrastructure, existing in and around cities, was not designed to cope with extreme weather episodes. This includes major arteries, airports and seaports, as well as many commercial and residential developments.

Cities must also stabilize their resource base, invest in proactive reconfiguration, and build up reactive reserves. Ample financial reserves, strong governance, increased investment in building human capital, plus the sustainable management of resources are critical for resilience and competitiveness.

Turning Risks into Opportunities in a Climate Future

Butuan City sits within a high-risk zone – right at the Agusan River delta, where rains are a daily occurrence and floods are expected. Its precipitation figures are highest in this assessment, and it is apparent that the numbers will go higher.

“Seeing that the city is the economic core for trade and services of the CARAGA Region, what investments need to be made to ensure its continued viability? Acknowledging the need for an integrated river basin management, how can the city strengthen multi-community alliances to establish solutions to shared challenges?” asks Tan.

General Santos City’s population density is higher than the cities of Butuan, Davao, and Zamboanga. This is a primary driver for land conversion and consumption. Its proximity to areas whose futures hang in the balance also makes it a migratory sink.

In extreme weather events, how many people will be drawn to the warm promise of General Santos? Has the city thought about the impacts of migration and its increased pressure on limited resources? At one point in history, General Santos was one of the stars of East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA). What role will the city play in the ASEAN future?
Puerto Princesa City, the ‘city in the forest’, serves as the economic gateway of Palawan province. With its population expected to skyrocket from 130,000 to 320,000 in the next 20 years, Puerto Princesa is another a migratory sink.  The city also logged in a spike in tourist arrivals and number of air passengers. However, the city’s airport, seaport, plus the majority of its development are confined to its eastern coast – where storms blow.

Seeing Puerto Princesa’s high dependence on air and sea transport, how can it diffuse risk? To boost its viability, what are the investments and critical infrastructure that should be in place as the city expands geographically? It is time to get down to the nuts and bolts of climate-smart planning.

Santiago City forms the southernmost gateway to and from Isabela, hemmed in by three mountain ranges. Trade from Cagayan, Southern Luzon, and the Cordillera defines the city, whose primary agricultural output is rice and corn. A third of the city’s land area is dedicated to palay production. Corn production in the province has increased by an average of 11% per year.

This reliance on monocrop farms, however, spells a concentrated risk. Is Santiago ready to diversify beyond grain, considering that it has the lowest water supply per capita? Is Santiago ready to shift from monocrop to mosaic farms?

“No forests? No water. No water? No rice. If the timing, quantity and quality of water are to become a bane, then the management of fresh water emerges as a priority imperative for Santiago City. Too much is at stake here, and Luzon has to eat,” says Tan.

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