MANILA, JUNE 24, 2013 (PHILSTAR) There has been no lack of reminders about the high vulnerability of the Philippines to climate change.

The latest reminder came from a World Bank study, which showed that South and Southeast Asia face a spike in destructive weather phenomena as temperatures rise by four degrees in the coming years. Coastal communities and informal settlements are at high risk of being inundated by rising waters, while heat waves and more intense cyclones can destroy crops, coral reefs and marine life, endangering food supplies, tourism and livelihoods, according to the study prepared for the WB by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics.

Within Southeast Asia, Manila has been ranked together with Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Jakarta and Yangon among the cities most vulnerable to climate change. The heightened risk was seen in the cataclysmic floods that inundated Thailand in 2011 – the country’s worst in 50 years – which affected its capital Bangkok and the country’s major industry, tourism.

Severe flooding, which is also currently devastating large swaths of Europe, is one of the most visible manifestations of climate change. With the floods come traffic jams, which cost motorists and workers in Metro Manila a staggering P1.513 trillion in fuel and economic losses in the 10 years to 2011, according to a report prepared by the National Center for Transportation Studies. That’s about P4.212 billion a year in fuel costs plus P137.519 billion in economic losses from wasted time that could have otherwise been spent on work, business and production.

Those who were trapped for hours in horrid traffic jams in Metro Manila on Thursday last week, last Monday night and again the other day will believe that assessment. Mass transportation needs urgent upgrading and streamlining to reduce vehicle density, but these projects will take years to complete. Traffic jams, however, can be quickly eased with better management.

This is a problem where effective response requires full coordination among all agencies concerned. Coordination is necessary especially in Metro Manila, where elected mayors tend to jealously guard their turf from encroachment by presidential appointees including Cabinet secretaries and the chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. The response should be like a symphony, which needs a conductor. Or a basketball team, which needs teamwork and a good coach. In a problem that cuts across political boundaries, only a unified approach will work.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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