Preparing for future resilience

(The Philippine Star) - August 26, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Filipinos have time and again shown a certain level of toughness that allows them to adapt and cope with various challenges, including environmental ones. The Philippines has continued to flourish, with the World Bank forecasting bright growth prospects of up to 6.5 percent in 2016.   

However, events of recent years show that nature can easily take everything away in a matter of hours. The underlying question is, “Are we resilient enough for the future?” This was the main point of discussion during the Seminar on Climate Resilience organized by Shell Philippines in Davao City recently.

“Cities consume a lot of vital resources and as of today, half of the world’s population all live in cities,” said Sankie Simbulan, Shell social performance manager and lead for Shell’s Powering Progress Together (PPT) projects, in a speech to formally open the seminar.

“The migration to cities is just beginning and by 2050, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in urban areas.” This means that by 2050, the demand for energy, water and food will also increase along with carbon dioxide emissions which can lead to climate change. “This is the prosperity paradox that the world needs to manage,” she added.

Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, executive director of the Manila Observatory, agreed, while emphasizing the interconnection between climate change and socio-economic growth for an emerging growth center like Davao City.

“Risks posed by climate change impact current and future business prospects as well as Davao’s development plans to be a competitive city,” she said. “We should be able to identify the unique weather and climate data especially in low elevation coastal areas. The collected information will show patterns that can be processed into useful knowledge on disaster risk management.”

Although strong typhoons like Yolanda hit the country every year, Davao has traditionally been rarely along the path of such weather disturbances. But Father Daniel McNamara, environmental science program coordinator of the Manila Observatory, noted that the climate has become increasingly unpredictable because of global warming.

“An example is Typhoon Pablo, which hit Mindanao and moved towards Davao in 2012. It is theoretically impossible for a typhoon to form just around 3 to 5 degrees close to the equator, but Typhoon Pablo did just that due to the extra heat energy in the atmosphere,” he explained.

Jessica Bercilla, senior advocacy and policy officer for Christian Aid and science policy research specialist of the Manila Observatory, reinforced McNamara’s claim, adding that disaster preparedness should now be considered a major component of the country’s National Risk Reduction and Management Plan.

“Preparedness against future natural disasters should already be in our DNA. Early warning systems, like the Automated Weather Stations or AWS, should be in place. The AWS gives us up-to-date information about the different climate-related variables in local communities that can help us prepare during a calamity,” Bercilla stressed.

AWS are an established system of stand-alone devices that can accurately record temperature and humidity, solar radiation, wind speed and direction as well as rainfall.

Earlier this year, Shell Philippines spearheaded a climate resilience consortium with the Manila Observatory, Smart Communications and select local government units throughout the country to help enhance sustainable development of coastal cities, which are considered most prone to the consequences of natural disasters and calamities.

A part of this multi-sectoral collaboration is a nationwide initiative that would expand the network of automated weather stations managed by the Manila Observatory, the oldest Earth system science research institute in the Philippines. Shell has agreed to provide the venue for the devices, using its gas stations and oil depots as sites in order to achieve a more strategic reach for the AWS network. Smart, as telecommunications partner, will provide the technology for data transmission in select coastal cities. The data will be made available online at www.weatherlink.com and www.panahon.observatory.ph.

ACIRC ANTONIA YULO-LOYZAGA AUTOMATED WEATHER STATIONS BUT FATHER DANIEL CHRISTIAN AID CLIMATE DAVAO DAVAO CITY MANILA OBSERVATORY SHELL PHILIPPINES TYPHOON PABLO
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