Making Climate Change Adaptation a Multi-Disciplinary Challenge: IRIACC-CCaR Launch

by: Geonelle Louise Corneby

In recent years, typhoons such as Ondoy and Sendong, as well as other natural hazards, have incurred economic losses, massive loss of lives and property and damage to infrastructure. These have, in turn, increased the need for and urgency of climate change adaptation directed efforts.

However, the lack of communication on the various efforts from government, non-government, scientists, and social scientists has resulted in a knowledge gap among those sectors. To address this knowledge gap, the International Research Initiative on Adaptation to Climate Change (IRIACC) program embarked on the project “Coastal Cities at Risk (CCaR): Building Adaptive Capacity for Managing Climate Change in Coastal Megacities,” launched on March 1st, 2012, at the Leong Hall Auditorium in the Ateneo de Manila University.

IRIACC-CCaR is a 5-year program of interdisciplinary and integrated studies on the coastal megacities of Canada, Thailand, Nigeria, and the Philippines. The main objective of the project is to establish a knowledge base that can enhance the capacity of coastal megacities to successfully cope with and adapt to the risks and effects of climate change.

The research initiative will involve the expertise of scientists and social scientists to help build capacity for local government units (LGUs) and other stakeholders. This program is funded by the International Development Research Centre, with the support of other Canadian institutions.

Ms. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga of the Manila Observatory and Dr. Emma Porio of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the Ateneo de Manila University welcomed representatives of LGUs in Metro Manila, national government agencies, environmental organizations, students, and members of other sectors, and introduced the project to potential partners and beneficiaries. The program included speeches from eminent environmental advocates, such as Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ, President of the Ateneo de Manila University; H.E. Christopher Thornley, Ambassador of Canada to the Philippines; the Hon. Senator Loren Legarda; Presidential Adviser Elisea G. Gozun; Sec. Mary Ann Lucille Sering of the Climate Change Commission; and Mr. Ramon Santiago of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). Also in attendance were members of the project team, including Ms. Loyzaga and Dr. Porio, Dr. Gemma Narisma, Dr. Kendra Gotangco, and Dr. Inez Ponce de Leon.

Dr. Porio emphasized the need for the “4Cs” in engaging cities at risk: commitment, collaboration, coordination, and connectedness. These 4Cs, Dr. Porio stressed, should guide the different communities of practice.

“Because it is only by connecting with each other, and knowing what the other is doing, and appreciating what each can contribute to the solution and the situation, that we are able to come up with doable things, and we are able to create more livable spaces, more dynamic and productive spaces in our cities,” Dr. Porio said.

Fr. Villarin called on the different sectors to work together to emulate what he believed was a local symbol of climate change adaptation: the stone houses in Batanes.

“If you want to start a family and you need a house, you cannot build it alone. Actually, the community builds the house. Houses that are there in Batanes are built in the 19th century. Storm after storm that lashed the shores of Batanes, they still stand,” Fr. Villarin said.

The guest speakers discussed various topics covering climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction and management:

  • Urbanization and its effects on coastal megacities, as well as their ability to adapt to climate change;
  • The importance of understanding problems, making decisions, and taking action at the community level;
  • The need to understand and define concepts such as hazard, disaster, exposure, vulnerability, and mitigation; and
  • The need to integrate findings on existing programs, laws, and efforts of LGUs and other partners.

Dr. Kendra Gotangco of the Manila Observatory presented the IRIACC-CCaR project in detail. She gave an introduction, background, project brief, timeline, and venues for partnerships.

Dr. Gemma Narisma of the Manila Observatory also presented A Post Ondoy Integrated Risk Assessment. She discussed her initial findings, which could inform the work of IRIACC-CCaR.

Representatives from the local governments of Pasig and Makati responded with their own existing projects, as well as questions on how they could contribute to IRIACC-CCaR. These responses were complemented with an open forum to solicit feedback and concerns from the participants.

A few participants recommended expanding the pool of potential partners by tapping into the private sector for additional financial support. They also suggested consulting with community organizing/development specialists for implementation at the community level. Some participants asked about the communication programs that would help bring the IRIACC-CCaR project to a wider audience.

In the end, the IRIACC-CCaR project launch proved to be successful by not only promoting a project that will pave the way to solving communication problems among sectors, but also serving as a venue for preliminary discourse among the stakeholders involved.