Monday, November 19, 2012

Updated Study Presents Business Risks and Opportunities for Four More RP Cities

In Chinese, two characters comprise the word crisis – the first signifies danger, while the next represents opportunity.

Guided by this, top environmental solutions provider World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines) and Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Foundation released the second version of a multi-phase study on climate adaptation for Philippine cities.

 WWF-Philippines Vice-chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan

“With the proper mindset, what may be seen as a local vulnerability can be transformed into a development opportunity,” says WWF-Philippines Vice Chairman and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan. “The world is fast changing. It is crucial for our own national competitiveness and social viability that Filipino leaders, both from the public and private sectors, learn to look at climate adaptation as a unique selling proposition.”

 Having lunch with the Vice Chairman and CEO of WWF Philippines

 We were lucky enough to have the a one-on-one chat over lunch with the Vice Chairman and CEO, and he shared with us valuable informative insights like his belief that we should not be using the words "stop" or "ban" if we want to get favorable response from communities and groups. Instead we should be creating "lures" on how to attract individuals to do otherwise. Examples are, if we want people to "relocate" from dangerous locations, we should be providing some sustainable sources of income at the relocation a few other pointers on his ideas of business and productivity for the people.

Business Risk Assessment and the Management of Climate Impacts

The second version of a multi-phase study on climate adaptation for Philippine cities

 The venue was at the BPI Main Building in Makati

The 1851 Club, venue for the WWF Event

Business Risk Assessment and the Management of Climate Impacts analyzes economic and climate trends while predicting probable scenarios. The study aims to help city planners and decision-makers assess climate change impacts, identify opportunities and sustainability strategies for cities to retain economic viability and competitiveness in a climate-defined future.

 The host of the event gives us a few insights about the WWF project

Says BPI Foundation Executive Director Florendo Maranan, “We have seen in Superstorm Sandy how even the most powerful country can be rendered helpless in the face of nature’s fury. We need not wait for the next disaster to happen. The study results provide us with a good starting point for the critical actions that we need to address. More importantly, the vulnerability assessment of each city provides highly valuable insights on business opportunities if we pursue a more sustainable development plan.”

 BPI Foundation Executive Director Florendo Maranan

Phase two of the multi-year study was conducted from January to September this year and assessed the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Dagupan, Laoag and Zamboanga. Phase one was conducted in 2011 and surveyed the cities of Baguio, Cebu, Davao and Iloilo.

“This new study synthesizes two years’ worth of research which combines baseline data findings with stakeholder inputs from city-specific scenario-building exercises,” explains WWF-Philippines Project Manager Moncini Hinay. “Results shall form the basis for recommendations which we hope may influence each city’s unique climate adaptation strategy and urban development plan.”

Heavily-populated and frequently-flooded, Dagupan emerged as the most vulnerable of the four assessed cities for 2012. Businessmen are now shifting Bangus or Milkfish (Chanos chanos) production to adjacent towns to upgrade the city into a commercial hub.  (WWF-Philippines / Gregg Yan)

Fish and Water

Ravaged by twin floods in 2009 and 2011, Cagayan de Oro’s boon and bane is water. Bound by Macalajar Bay plus the vast drainage systems of the Tagoloan and Cagayan de Oro rivers, the city is further fed by rainfall from Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon. All this water causes seasonal floods. Rather than meeting this flood risk head-on, WWF proposes a management alliance with upland towns to ensure the vitality of its river catchments. As a downstream site, Cagayan de Oro controls the ‘Tap’. Together with upstream towns, a well-managed river basin management system may allow improved management of the ‘Pipes’.

Hailed as the Bangus Capital of the Philippines, Dagupan sits on a natural bog, bordered by Lingayen Gulf and fed by the rains of Central Luzon plus the Cordilleras. Generally situated on mudflats and reclaimed land, seven of the city’s 31 barangays are frequently inundated by floods and high-tides.

Among WWF’s recommendations is to favor rainwater and surface water over groundwater, over-extraction of which leads to saltwater intrusion and the deterioration of water quality – something that Bangus farmers and all coastal cities must avoid. Fortunately, farsighted businessmen have already shifted Bangus production to outlying towns like Binmaley – moving Dagupan closer to a new role in the fast-changing Pangasinan economy.

“In 1980, the country’s population stood at 48 Million. Today there are 100 Million mouths to feed and people to house. By 2050, government data estimates the Philippine population to reach 140 Million,” says Tan. “In the face of both mounting climate impacts and a ballooning populace, we must learn to produce more with less without compromising natural systems. Relocation is not enough – there is an opportunity for us to graduate from ‘old school’ extraction, toward sustainable production and eventually, to better management of value chains and improved transactional control.”

Recovering from the vicious floods of 2009 and 2011, Cagayan de Oro can turn crisis into opportunity by distributing water to adjacent areas. Northern Mindanao regularly registers the highest rainfall in the country. (WWF-Philippines / Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan)

Remittances and Refugees

Laoag is the least vulnerable among the four Phase two cities. In a sense, it exemplifies how communities should be situated in a climate-defined future. The city center is positioned in gently-rolling, mostly flat terrain, about six kilometers from the coast. A broad expanse of sand dunes stretching from Currimao to the north serves as a natural barrier to protect the city from sea level rise and storm surge effects. Though much less vulnerable, Laoag’s city center and its international airport sit along a meandering river that has occasionally been known for floods.

High agricultural self-sufficiency is further boosted by low population growth. Leveraged by the region’s high functional literacy, Laoag’s main source of income comes from the remittances of Ilocanos working abroad.

A top exporter of Agar-agar (Kappaphycus spp.) seaweed, Zamboanga’s challenge lies in the management of natural capital and the infusion of future migrants. Sitting in a typhoon-free zone, the city is poised to become a refugee sink for those afflicted by climate change.

(WWF-Philippines / Gregg Yan)

A top exporter of seaweed and coconut, Zamboanga sits within a typhoon-free zone, registering the lowest average rainfall among all eight assessed sites. Seeing that much of the city’s new growth has come from agricultural activity, Zamboanga’s challenge will involve the management of natural capital. “Though generally shielded from climate effects, Zamboanga is still vulnerable. People from high risk communities may eventually emigrate and turn it into a migratory sink,” projects Hinay. “Over the last 20 years, the city’s population has doubled. One way or another, climate change will affect all cities.”

The famed Ilocos Empanada is truly one of the most popular Ilocos dishes. It is also considered as an all-time favorite snack not only of the locals but of the local and foreign tourists as well.

In 2009, WWF launched The Coral Triangle and Climate Change: Ecosystems, People and Societies at Risk – a report based on a thorough consideration of the climate biology, economics and social characteristics of the immediate environs of the Philippines – showing how unchecked climate change will ultimately undermine and destroy local ecosystems and livelihoods. A low-lying archipelago, the Philippines sits well within the typhoon belt and is the third most vulnerable nation to climate change.

Concludes WWF-Philippines Vice-chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, “A climate-defined future will be a highly-variable future. Economic patterns which define each city will be rocked by increasing unpredictability. Success can be achieved by capitalizing on development opportunities and mastering supply and demand. Instead of concentrating on best practices, let us opt for next practices. Governance is not government – it involves all of us.”

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