AFTER witnessing the damages wrought recently by nonstop rains spawned by tropical depression Agaton in Northern Mindanao, an emerging leader in the country’s sustainable building sector has promised to help Cagayan de Oro become a city to withstand the ill-effects of climate change.?

Officers of Italpinas Euroasian Design and Eco-Development Corporation (ITPI Corp.), the developer of Cagayan de Oro’s first eco-friendly, mixed-use condominium complex called Primavera Residences, vowed to contribute its expertise in sustainable architecture and green entrepreneurship to help the city adapt to climate change.

“When we first came to Cagayan de Oro in 2009 to build Primavera Residences, we were told that the city was not found within the typhoon belt. It isn’t. But Typhoon Sendong came along, causing flash floods and many deaths. Clearly, the weather conditions in the city are changing rapidly because of climate change, and we all have to adapt quickly to this new reality,” said Architect Romolo V. Nati, ITPI’s CEO and Executive Chairman.

At least 3,500 families evacuated from their homes in Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro after incessant rains since January 9 caused rivers to swell, triggering floods and landslides. The nonstop rains were brought the low-pressure area turned into a tropical depression Agaton and weakened into a low-pressure area Monday but lingered in Mindanao until the end of the week. On January 20, disaster officials put the city on code red alert as rivers continued to swell.

Residents were compelled to leave their homes in areas beside riverbanks and shores. The next day, the code was downgraded to orange as the weather improved.

In 2011, more than a thousand people died when flashfloods submerged the areas near the river during Tropical Storm Sendong.

“All indicators point to CdO as one of the cities that will lead the country’s growth in future decades, but we also know for sure that it is also a city that’s vulnerable to climate change,” Atty. Jojo Leviste, Nati’s partner and president of ITPI, noted. Leviste, a lawyer, is also the president of Constellation Energy Corporation, a renewable energy company in which ITPI has a 25 per cent share.

Cagayan de Oro ranks as the country’s most competitive city in 2013 and is also listed among the country’s fastest-growing city economies, Leviste noted. Economists even predict that the city will become the gateway, not only to Mindanao, but to the emerging markets of Southeast Asia, he added.

“Right now, in fact, CdeO has become a magnet for regional offices of multinational corporations, as well as many business process outsourcing companies,” Leviste pointed out, ticking off Del Monte, Nestlè, Hanjin, Coca-Cola and the global car brands BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Suzuki and Subaru.

He also noted that the city now has no less than five BPO hubs: Georgetown Cybermall IT Building, Limketkai IT Center, Ororama Megacenter, Robinsons Place and SMCO IT Center.

“But CdeO is also vulnerable to climate change,” said Nati, citing findings of Management of Climate Change Impacts that in a 2013 study conducted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Bank of the Philippines (BPI) Foundation Inc on 12 Philippine cities, including CdeO.

Apart from the capital city of Misamis Oriental, the paper looked at the climate change vulnerability of 11 other cities: Baguio, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Dagupan, Laoag, Zamboanga, Angeles, Batangas, Naga and Tacloban.

The Italian architect went on to explain that although Cagayan de Oro is found outside the typhoon belt and receives around half of the 20 typhoons the Philippines gets on average in a year, “city weather data tells only half the story.”

Nati said that to fully understand CdO’s vulnerability to climate change, it’s important to look at the city’s hydrology and topography, as well.

“Like a parenthesis, the drainage systems of two rivers — the Tagoloan and the Cagayan de Oro rivers — box in the city on the east and west. These two major Northern Mindanao river basins are fed by rainfall coming from Bukidnon’s high plateau, which has an annual rainfall more than 60 per cent higher than that of the city itself,” Nati explained.

He said that Cagayan de Oro is a rapidly expanding urban heat island that enhances evaporation and aggravates the buildup of moisture in the hills above the city, triggering even more rain, Nati added.

“In fact, a study submitted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to the National Water Resource Bureau estimates that, from 2005 to 2025, Region X will show the highest levels of water available in the country.”

Nati said ITPI plans new projects in the city after the success of Primavera Residences, the twin 10-story towers that are built incorporating best-in-class passive cooling technologies such as shadow and sunlight control, wind cooling and shape performance.

Nati said that to prepare for a future defined by climate change, CdO has to manage its rapid urbanization to lessen the concentration of the damage climate change will wreak,” Nati said.

“One good way to do this is to strategically diffuse population concentrations by building in the less dense parts of the city, then to put up efficient mass transit and freight movement systems that will connect these diffuse settlements.”

“New climate-smart infrastructure is also a very important part of creating climate change-adapted settlements,” Nati added.