Sea level rise, more Category 5 storms threaten Philippines

by Jojo Malig, ABS-CBNNews.com

Posted at Jun 25 2013 11:29 PM | Updated as of Jun 26 2013 08:05 AM

MANILA - Which cities and coastal areas in the Philippines will be under water if the sea level rises by 2- and-a-half feet before the turn of the next century?

A temperature rise of just 2 degrees Celsius by 2040 will mean an average of 75 centimeters sea level rise in the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia by 2080-2100, according to a June 2013 report for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics.

The study, "Turn Down The Heat," also warned that the Philippines will experience fewer but more intense storms reaching Category 5 such as supertyphoon Pablo that struck Mindanao last year.

It also said that global warming will cause rural displacements because of reduced productivity of farms and the death of coral reefs that serve as feeding and spawning grounds for many fish species.

This, in turn, will result in more illegal settlers flocking to cities and more people becoming exposed to floods, heat waves, and diseases.

The study cited Metro Manila, a coastal metropolis with poor households found in low-lying areas that are vulnerable to tidal and storm surges.

"Storm surges are projected to affect about 14 percent of the total population and 42 percent of coastal populations. Informal settlements, which account for 45 percent of the Philippines’ urban population, are particularly vulnerable to floods due to less secure infrastructure, reduced access to clean water, and lack of health insurance," the bank said Tuesday in a statement.

PH in top 10 most vulnerable

Worse is yet to come if global temperatures rise by 4 degrees Celsius by the 2080s.

Aside from heat waves sweeping the country during the summer, it will mean a 9% rise in maximum wind velocity in the Philippines and an average of 110 cm rise in sea level by 2080.



 "We're always in the top 5-10 (on list of most vulnerable countries)," Climate Change Commission Secretary Lucille Sering said Tuesday during the "ANC Presents: At Risk" forum on climate change.
 
 "Knowing that weather events will get more intense, we need to look at how local governments are responding to these," she said.
 
 Sering said the country's readiness against global warming depends on where people live.

Next steps: Policy integration, implementation

Cristophe Crepin, World Bank Sector Leader for Environment and Climate Change, said at the ANC forum that the Philippine government's policy on global warming should be reflected in implementation of programs to address the issue.

"Things have been done in Philippines in the last 3 years. The question now is implementation, how much are we aligned on results and policy," he said.

On Tuesday, the bank released another report on how reforms fully integrating the climate change agenda in the government's planning and budgeting will strengthen the Philippines' resilience against the impacts of a warming world.

The report looks at the innovations as well as gaps in policy and financing of climate change programs since the country adopted the Climate Change Act 4 years ago.

Higher budget for climate change

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said appropriations for climate change programs have been increasing at an average of 26 percent annually since since 2009.

"Climate change has a direct and immediate impact on development. As it stands, the Philippines is already in the path of major weather disturbances that damage property and critical infrastructure. More urgent however is the fact that these weather patterns frequently jeopardize the welfare of communities in high-risk areas," he said.

Sering said more needs to be done to address the threat. "We need targeted spending that's more proactive to address climate change."

Abad agreed, saying the Climate Change Commission must take part more in important Cabinet clusters.

Sering said climate change is an opportunity for leaders to show their worth. "Acting on it right now can yield returns, such as the case in Albay," she said.

The case of Albay

Albay Governor Joey Salceda, who won praise in a separate study by a British think-tank for showing leadership and decisiveness in relocating people in disaster-prone areas, said there's enough money to address global warming.

"Just use it properly," he said.

He said 10,000 people living near riverbanks were relocated in Albay. "We have rational land use planning."

"We need to demystify climate change adaptation. It's such a big word, actually," Salceda said. "Climate change adaptation is just a means to an end. There's no need to hype up climate change as a new religion."

He said Albay, which was also mentioned as a role model by the World Bank, has a Climate Change Academy that teaches what exactly is climate change adaptation.

This includes farmers shifting to other crops.

Professor Tony La Viña of the Ateneo School of Government said Salceda succeeded because of strong political will and visionary thinking, particularly in how he made the disadvantage of Albay into an advantage.

" You have to have a vision on how to do it. Otherwise, you will waste resources," he said during the ANC forum.

"It's important to build capacity, intervention in land use," La Viña said. "Climate change is so complex, it can overwhelm you. [But governments] have to start from somewhere."

Sering said local governments should integrate climate change in their planning and programs. "LGUs should accept climate change is happening. Leaders shouldn't deny it anymore. It's enough motivation to plan properly."