MALOLOS CITY, PHILIPPINES, July 1, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Dino Balabo – At least 23 provinces are considered to be at high risk for disasters due to the hazards of climate change, a World Bank (WB) report said.

In a 279-page report entitled “Getting a Grip on Climate Change in the Philippines,” the WB said the absence of land barriers exposes the country to typhoons, floods, landslides and droughts.

The Philippines is more vulnerable to climate risks than its neighbors in the region, it said.

The report said the provinces were classified based on their vulnerability to temperature change, rainfall change, El Niño, typhoons and flooding.

For temperature change, the provinces of Sulu, Basilan, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao were categorized as very high risk, while Lanao del Norte, Davao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Misamis Occidental, Camiguin, Siguijor, Misamis Oriental, Cebu, Agusan del Norte, Zambonga del Norte, Albay, Sarangani, Negros Oriental, Ifugao and Negros Occidental were considered high risk.

Very high risk for rainfall change are Metro Manila and the provinces of Albay, Pampanga, Ifugao, Rizal, Cavite, Sorsogon, Laguna, Biliran, Batangas, Pangasinan, Masbate, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Northern Samar, Aklan, Capiz and La Union, while Western Samar and Romblon were placed under high risk.

Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, and Davao del Norte were classified as very high risk for El Niño-induced droughts or abnormal increase in rainfall.The provinces of Misamis Occidental, Sarangani, Zamboanga del Sur, South Cotabato, Zamboanga del Norte, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Siquijor, Tawi-Tawi, Negros Oriental, Camiguin, Davao Oriental, Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon were classified under high risk.

Very high risk for typhoons with strong winds and heavy rainfall are Ifugao, La Union, Cagayan, Ilocos Sur, Albay, Mountain Province, Kalinga, Pangasinan and Sorsogon. Pampanga, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Nueva Ecija, Ilocos Norte, Northern Samar, Tarlac, Apayao, Rizal, Benguet, and Camarines Norte are high risk.

Very high risk to flooding are Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Maguindanao, Tarlac, Cagayan, Leyte, North Cotabato and Negros Occidental while the provinces of Iloilo, Bulacan, Camarines Sur, Agusan del Sur, Zamboanga del Sur, Davao del Sur, Sultan Kudarat, Oriental Mindoro, Davao del Sur, Zambales and Isabela are placed under high risk.

Phl budget remains low

The WB report also noted that the country’s budget for climate change programs has been increasing but remains below international standards.

The report said the budget for climate change programs is only 1.9 percent of the national budget and about 0.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). It is lower than the recommendation of Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change that countries spend at least 2 percent of GDP for climate change programs.

Christophe Crepin, WB sector leader for environment-East Asia and Pacific, said budget reforms are needed, aside from effective financing and targeting of beneficiaries in the government’s climate agenda.

“It’s not just about the total amount. It’s about the quality of what we do. If you have the amount and don’t spend it in the right thing or spend it in the right thing but you don’t spend it properly, that’s a bit pointless,” Crepin said.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said appropriations for climate change programs have been increasing at an average of 26 percent yearly since 2009, outpacing the growth of the national budget, which has been growing at only around 6 percent.

Abad also assured the public that the government remains committed to providing sufficient budgetary support for programs and projects that mitigate the effects of climate change in the country.

“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,” said Abad.

The Climate Change Commission (CCC) said the study revealed that integrating the climate change agenda in the government’s planning and budgeting system will strengthen the country’s resilience against the effects of unpredictable weather patterns.

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

The report was done at the request of, and in close collaboration with, the CCC and the Department of Budget and Management.

Secretary Lucille Sering, commissioner and vice chair of the CCC, said, “Policymakers have put in place comprehensive sets of policies, programs and institutions for dealing

with climate change. This important report helps put greater focus into our work as we try to make our communities safer from and the people less vulnerable to sea level rise and extreme weather events like strong typhoons, floods and storm surges, among other impacts.”

“Incorporating the climate change action plan into the national and local development process, supported by properly targeted public investments, is important to ensure that climate change priorities are translated into concrete actions on the ground,” said Sering.

In its earlier report, titled “Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts and the Case for Resilience,” the WB says climate change-related impacts are projected to increase in the coming decades, threatening coastal populations.

It said climate change is expected to lead to more intense typhoons, higher sea levels, 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.

It also noted that climate-related impacts would affect the farming and fishing sectors. – With Alexis Romero, Rhodina Villanueva

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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