Climate and disaster risk assessments critical in resilience building

Quezon City—Understanding the underlying drivers of risks is a crucial first step in disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) and climate change adaptation and mitigation (CCAM) planning of local government units (LGUs).

The 33rd episode of The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ Klimatotohanan webcast series entitled “Resilience from Below: Local Governments at the Forefront of Climate Disasters” underscored this in celebration of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction.

“We have to understand the risks and the underlying drivers of risks. The city government highlighted the importance of comprehensive climate and disaster risk assessments. Through these assessments, we understand what our hazards are, what our vulnerabilities are, our exposure, our coping capacities,” Maria Bianca Perez, Research and Planning Chief of the Quezon City Disaster and Risk Reduction and Management Office, said during the webcast.

Climate and disaster risk assessment, as espoused by then Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) in the 2014 Supplemental Guidelines on Mainstreaming Climate and Disaster Risks in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, is the process of studying risks and vulnerabilities of exposed elements namely, the people, urban areas, agriculture, forestry and fishery production areas, critical point facilities, lifelines and other infrastructure associated with natural hazards and climate change. 

In 2017, the Department of the Interior and Local Government-Local Government Academy’s Enhanced LGU Guidebook on the Formulation of Local Climate Change Action Plan (LCCAP) adopted the HLURB’s Climate and Disaster Risk Assessment (CDRA) process but recommended some enhancements to capture the multi-sectoral context of LCCAPs.

Rapid urbanization as a key driver of disaster risk

Perez noted during the webcast that rapid urbanization is a major driver of risk for Quezon City and therefore must be a factor in DRRM planning.

“The biggest challenge is rapid urbanization that we are facing right now and the problems associated with the growth of the city… With population growth, there’s more exposure to hazards. There is also inadequate open spaces (more houses, infrastructure), pollution, creation of slums, congestion, and poverty,” Perez explained.

Donna Magno, Chief of the Iloilo City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office, also cited urbanization as a challenge to her city, along with multiple hazards including earthquakes, subsidence, and water scarcity.

“Iloilo City is the center for commerce, trade, and education. You could just imagine the number of people flocking into the city. This increases the demand for housing, livelihood, and water. For local leaders, they have to consider that whenever we talk about the Comprehensive Development Plan, Comprehensive Land Use Planning, and our strategic planning [processes],” Magno said.

Establishing early warning systems and capacity building 

Acknowledging that there are hazards that the city could not fully mitigate, Perez shared that Quezon City has established early warning systems and is working on strengthening the capacities of frontliners.

“We make sure that they are empowered to build their own resilience, that they can also cascade their understanding of risk to the barangays through early warning systems and preemptive evacuation,” Perez said.

Lyndon Leovic Ancajas, Chief of Administration and Training of the Davao City Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Office, also highlighted their efforts on early warning systems and information dissemination.

“One of our best practices is how we spread the information of disaster preparedness and resilience to the public. We have 182 barangays. We have the mobile library bus for disaster mobile education. Pumupunta ito sa schools at barangays,” Ancajas shared.

Integrating climate change adaptation and mitigation in local development plans 

Aside from rapid urbanization and natural hazards, human-induced climate change is another key driver of disaster risk. This compels local governments not just to strengthen DRRM mechanisms but also to mainstream CCAM in local development planning and processes.
According to Perez, Quezon City’s climate change mitigation programs include 
“monitoring for air quality management programs, managing our carbon footprints, plastic bag ordinances, and single-use plastic prohibition across the city.”
“We’re also amending our Green Building ordinance wherein we’re providing incentives to the private sector who will be building safer and greener infrastructure,” she added.
Magno, on the other hand, noted that Iloilo City has been promoting energy efficiency to contribute to climate change mitigation. She cited the city’s Lamp Retrofitting Program and its promotion of renewable energy for the use of large enterprises in the city (such as SM City, Robinson’s Place, and John B. Lacson Foundation University). 
For climate change adaptation, Magno said that Iloilo is at the forefront of mangrove restoration and protection.
“Our mangroves consist of an area of 172 hectares –now a primary climate change adaptation program. We have also tied this project with our City Tourism Office in partnership with UPV (University of the Philippines Visayas) and CHED (Commission on Higher Education). They’re trying to put up an ecotourism learning hub. The intention is to educate Ilonggos, especially students, of the importance of mangroves,” Magno shared during the webcast.
A robust partnership between the private and public sectors
Joseph Pilapil, Resilience Council Coordinator of the City Government of Ormoc, underscored the importance of convergence between local governments and the private business sector.
“One of the city’s best practices is its openness to partnerships with the private sector. We are trying to build our resilience using the tool we call the Disaster Resilience Scorecard,” Pilapil said, referring to the scorecard developed by the National Resilience Council (NRC) as a guide for LGUs to determine their preparedness, adaptation, and transformation towards resiliency.
The NRC is a science and technology-based and evidence-informed public-private partnership working towards a more disaster-resilient Philippines.