Climate change threatens economy of 4 PH cities

Ports, roads, and drainage systems in Tacloban, Naga, Batangas, and Angeles cities should be checked before stronger typhoons paralyze economic drivers

EXPOSED. Tacloban City in Leyte received the highest vulnerability rating for climate change impacts in a study. Photo by Gregg Yan

MANILA, Philippines – The worsening effects of climate change can cripple the economy of 4 Philippine cities, a study conducted by Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines and BPI Foundation found.

The latest chapter of the Business Risk Assessment and the Management of Climate Impacts assessed the climate change preparedness of Tacloban City in Leyte, Naga City in Camarines Sur, Batangas City in Batangas, and Angeles City in Pampanga. The results were released on Tuesday, January 14.

Based on 20 years of data from each city, the study showed how climate change is taking a toll on the cities’ major sources of economic growth. Climate change causes extreme droughts, stronger storms, rise in sea levels, aggravated flooding and landslides.

The report analyzed the cities’ exposure to climate change, the sensitivity of their economy and society to climate change impacts, and their ability to adapt to these impacts.

Vulnerable economies

In Tacloban City, major economic drivers – its port and fishing industry – are vulnerable to sea level rise and ocean acidification, both of which are effects of climate change. (READ: What made Tacloban so vulnerable to Haiyan?)

Sea level rise due to the melting of icecaps in the world’s northern hemisphere can eventually submerge the port. Tacloban’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean, a major source of tropical storms, exposes its port and fishermen to extreme weather events like storms. Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in November brought storm surges, which destroyed the port and crippled the fishing industry.

In Naga City, tourism is one of the primary drivers of economic growth. Most of its tourists travel by land and not by air, meaning it will need all-weather and highly accessible roads if it wants to continue to reap benefits from tourism.

But Naga is s flanked by Mount Isarog, perennially covered by rain-producing clouds, and the Bicol river basin. Climate change will intensify the rains and resulting floods. Thus, effective drainage systems and alternative road routes must be built so that tourists can still keep visiting the city.

Batangas City is highly dependent on its sea routes for economic growth. It has become a trade hub because of the Batangas Port, which connects the province to other regions and businesses. Good thing it is shielded by its orientation from the Pacific Ocean’s storms.

Angeles City is similar. Its trade hub status depends on Clark Air Base and the Freeport Zone. Being situated inland, it is protected from sea level rise, storm surges, and storms from the Pacific Ocean.

However, Batangas and Angeles cities need major roads, like the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), to keep trading with other cities. The study showed that these vital roads are submerged by floods during major storms, rendering them impassable. 

“Seaports and airports will be viable only if they provide safe and consistent movement of passengers and cargo,” said WWF CEO Lory Tan.

Ready for the next Yolanda?

The assessment of the 4 cities is the latest phase of a bigger study spanning other Philippine cities.

Previous phases conducted from 2011 to 2012 assessed 8 cities: Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Dagupan, Iloilo, Laoag, and Zamboanga.

You can download the entire study here.

In 2014, WWF Philippines and BPI aim to assess 4 more cities: Butuan, General Santos, Santiago, and Puerto Princesa. 

The Philippines is the 3rd most vulnerable country to climate change, according to the United Nations. It is visited by an average of 20 storms a year.

Typhoon Yolanda, said to be the strongest storm in history, made landfall in Visayas on November 8, 2013, killing over 6,200 and wreaking more than P36 billion worth of economic damage. – 

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