What PHL cities are most vulnerable to climate change?

The Philippines might do well to prepare its cities for the impact of climate change in the years to come, as a recent study revealed which local cities are most vulnerable.

"No one can define the scope and sequence of climate change with absolute certainty," the study reads, "(So) adaptive capacity becomes an essential asset."

The research paper,

titled "Business Risk Assessment and the Management of Climate Change Impacts Project", is a joint venture between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI) Foundation.

The WWF and the BPI Foundation lauched this multi-year survey, conducted in eight cities through out the country, on Nov. 8 in Makati City.

In Ondoy's wake

The cities surveyed include Cagayan de Oro, Dagupan, Laoag and Zamboanga for the first phase, and Ceby, Davao, Baguio and Iloilo for the second.

In a statement, WWF said that the study was "aimed at helping city planners and decision-makers assess climate change impacts, identify opportunities and decide on a sustainability strategy, site-specific interventions and standards of next practice that will allow the city to retain economic viability and respond more competitively in a climate-defined future."

Aurelio "Gigi" Montinola III of BPI said during the event, "This study started slightly after Ondoy... Basically we (try to) help the cities that we're doing the studies in."

Most vulnerable cities

For the updated version of the survey, WWF and BPI Foundation named Baguio as the most vulnerable city to climate change impact. (See story here.)

(Source: WWF-BPI Foundation)

WWF, using the parameters of the 2009 Coral Triangle and Climate Change study, devised a scenario assessment to analyze the climate or environmental exposure of each city.

To add to this, WWF also measured each city's socio-economic sensitivity through its population, tourism, agriculture, business and investments, health, and education.

Recommendations for Phase 2

WWF also looked at each city's adaptive capacity highlighting data on labor, functional literacy, revenue, expenditures, banking and family savings for a 20-year period (1990-2010).

The study found that Cagayan de Oro city is a flood-prone area and that it needs to manage the catchment basin of Tagoloan and Cagayan de Oro rivers, and to have an "alliance with upland towns to ensure the vitality" of these catchments.

For Dagupan City, WWF recommended to "favor rainwater and surface water over groundwater." The study noted that over-extraction can lead to "saltwater intrusion and deterioration of water quality in the area."

Meanwhile, Laoag's strength--its educated population--seems to be its weakness at more and more citizens tend to move overseas for work. But WWF noted that the city sits at a climate change risk point: "the city center and airport lies along a meandering river known for floods."

Zamboanga City, for its part, is generally protected from climate change effects but its growing population poses a great risk on the adaptive capability of the area.

Climate change-prone zone

The study took into account that the country sits in the middle of a climate change-prone zone. The Philippines is barraged by an average of 20 cyclones per year, to add to the rising sea level, and sea surface temperature, paired with the effects of ocean acidification and the more frequent El Niño phenomenon.

But according to the study, "We know that climate impacts are going to be site-specific, and non-linear. We also know that climate is altering many basic business assumptions, as well as creating a new menu of economic options available to each city."

"Consolidation is a crucial first step," it added.

"It is also hoped that this may be a springboard for new investment incentives in “no regrets” opportunities that could serve to boost each city’s competitiveness and sustainability, as we face a climate-defined future," it concluded.

BPI Foundation Florendo Maranan revealed during the event that they are set to conduct further studies soon soon.

— TJD, GMA News