City needs ‘climate-smart’ infra, tech

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

CEBU CITY needs to make new investments in “climate-smart” infrastructure and technology for its long-term development, as the new study conducted by the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature indicates the city faces worsening weather disturbances.

In her presentation during the National Competitiveness Council Roadshow last Wednesday, lawyer Angela Consuelo Ibay, head of Climate and Energy Program of WWF, said Cebu will have to deal with increasingly erratic weather patterns, based on the “Business Risk Assessment and the Management of Climate Change Impacts” report released last year.

Cebu City, along with Iloilo, Baguio and Davao were the first four key cities covered in the first phase of the study conducted in 2011. Cagayan de Oro, Dagupan, Laoag and Zamboanga formed Phase 2 of the study last year while ongoing studies are being conducted in Angeles, Batangas, Naga and Tacloban.

The study is in partnership with the BPI Foundation Inc. It aims to help city planners and decision-makers assess climate change impact, identify opportunities and decide on sustainable strategies for the cities of the Philippines to retain economic viability.

Saltwater intrusion

The study covers the period from 1990-2010.

The WWF study noted that Cebu faces a growing problem with saltwater intrusion, a movement of saline water into freshwater aquifers, which can lead to contamination of drinking water sources, due to excessive groundwater extraction.

It said this will find Cebu City in a “climate sandwich” as saltwater intrusion advances further, sea level rise and more intense typhoons lash the coastline with storm surge.

Other climate change concerns include the rising temperatures on the sea surface and increasing ocean acidification that can affect the fisheries industry. The findings also indicate changes in precipitation that can lead to more frequent landslides and flooding affecting several barangays in the city.


Like Iloilo, the study noted Cebu residents have begun to notice an increased incidence of flooding within certain portions of the city. Flooding is a high threat for six barangays and a moderate threat for 18 barangays of Cebu City.

“As weather events become more extreme and frequent, Cebu City may find itself increasingly affected by business disruption borne of supply chain issues and workforce dislocation,” the study said.

It noted that next to Metro Manila, Cebu City is the second-largest center of business in the country, where business establishments have increased by six times, over the last 15 years, from 536 in 1995 to 3,165 in 2010.

The biggest sector is made up of service contractors, followed by distributors, retailers, and wholesalers. These sectors account almost three-fourths of employment in the city.

Shipping, on the other hand, is a major industry. Over the last two decades the annual inbound volume has increased seven times from 650,000 million metric tons (MT) in 1990 to 5.4 million MT in 2010. Over the same period, annual outbound volume has increased four times from 760,000 million MT in 1990 to four million MT in 2010.

Among the four cities studied, Cebu remains top in foreign trade. From $396 million in 1990, Cebu City’s foreign trade exports exceeded $1.527 billion in 2008 in 20 years.

For imports, the city grew from $214 million in 1990 to $1.260 billion in 2010.


Cebu City is also a leader in tourism. The study noted that tourism arrivals, 60 percent of which are domestic, increased by 58 percent over five years, from 1.2 million 2005 to 1.76 million in 2010. Hotel room count has mushroomed from 2,864 rooms to 4,126 rooms in the same period.

To sustain these developments, the WWF paper recommends Cebu City must re-invent itself. It said it is the best time to “re-think, re-work and re-tool”, given that in terms of vulnerability Cebu City ranked number three, overall.

Ibay said that if the city fails to incorporate effective climate change risk reduction measures its economic activities will be compromised.

“Cebu City’s opportunity lies in a long-term plan and development model that will disperse and diffuse climate risk,” the study said.

Cebu’s business stakeholders identified governance and water resource management as the top two development drivers to exert a strong influence on the city’s future.

Crucial to these developments, though, is competent and united political leadership, along with “effective, efficient, responsible and transparent governance.”

“Cebu’s opportunity is to invest in maintaining competent leadership as well as sustainable and cost effective utilities,” the study suggests.

To remain competitive, Cebu should also consider investing in a second airport.

The Province of Cebu has requested the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to conduct feasibility studies for airport in Northern Cebu, following the advice to decentralize and spread airline hubs.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 06, 2013.


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