Cebu City’s growth hinges on a long-term development plan that reduces climate change risks, says report

CEBU City must incorporate effective climate change risk-reduction measures in its long-term development blueprint as cumulative data indicate it faces worsening weather disturbances ahead, a new study conducted by the World Wide Fund (WWF) recommends.

Analysis of weather information in Cebu City spanning a 20-year period, from 1990 to 2010, indicates that the Queen City of the South will have to contend with increasingly erratic and unpredictable rainfall patterns, Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, CEO of WWF, said in a presentation based on the paper, “Business Risk Assessment and the Management of Climate Change Impacts,” released last year.

It also faces a growing problem with saltwater intrusion, due to excessive groundwater extraction, which will likely find the city caught in a “climate sandwich”, where saltwater intrusion advances further, sea levels rise, and more intense typhoons lash the coastline.

Other climate-change scenarios that the document foresees include rising temperatures on the sea surface and increasing ocean acidification that can affect the fisheries industry of Cebu City. The findings also indicate changes in precipitation that can lead to more frequent landslides and floodings affecting several barangays in the city.

“As weather events become more extreme and frequent, Cebu City may find itself increasingly affected by business disruption borne of supply chain issues and workforce dislocation,” Tan warned.

Next to Metro Manila, Cebu City is the second largest center of business in the country, its economic lifeblood sustained by manufacturing, processing, and trade. Business establishments have increased by six times over the last 15 years, from 536 in 1995 to 3,165 in 2010.

The biggest sector is made up of service contractors, followed a distant second by distributors, retailers, and wholesalers. Together, these sectors now account for almost three-fourths of employment in the city.

Shipping is a major industry. Over the last two decades, annual inbound volume increased seven times from 650,000 million metric tons in 1990 to 5.4 million metric tons in 2010. Over the same period, annual outbound volume increased four times from 760,000 million metric tons in 1990 to 4 million metric tons in 2010.

Annual inbound foreign cargo traffic rose 170 percent in 10 years, from 820,000 million metric tons in 2000 to 2.12 million metric tons in 2010. Annual outbound foreign cargo traffic increased 184 percent in 10 years, from 320,000 million metric tons in 2000 to 890,000 million metric tons in 2010.

But to sustain its economic growth, especially in sea-borne cargo and foreign trade, “Cebu must make the decision now to re-invent itself,” he said. This requires a long-term development model highlighting the provision of “extremely reliable infrastructure, efficient land/sea access, and cost-competitive utilities, particularly water supply.”

Crucial to all this is competent, united political leadership, said the WWF paper, along with “effective, efficient, responsible, and transparent governance”.

“The local government cannot do this alone, however, as “public-private partnerships” are another important part of the equation, along with “business-friendly policies and regulations,” he continued.

Cebu likewise needs to make new investments in “climate-smart” infrastructure and technology.

“If Cebu City looks “beyond its fences” and forges new development directions leading to global integration in this climate-defined future, it may seize this opportunity to strengthen its economic supply chains within the region, and maintain its reputation as a center for cost-competitiveness and reliability as a processor or supplier of goods and services,” he noted. — Romelda Ascutia, PHILEXPORT News and Features


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