Address PHL’s Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise, Legarda Tells Gov’t as World Observes Env’t Day

June 5, 2014

Senator Loren Legarda today called on the government to address the vulnerability of Philippine communities that would be affected by sea level rise, which is seen to displace 13.6 million Filipinos by the year 2050.


Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, made the call as nations celebrate World Environment Day on today, June 5, with the theme “Raise your voice, not the sea level.”


“The celebration of World Environment Day is not only about the environment per se. Climate change, disasters and extreme weather events are the other issues that are linked to the environment,” she said.


“The message of this year’s World Environment Day focuses on the risks posed by rising sea level and the vulnerability of coastal communities and small island nations. Several studies have already noted the high vulnerability of coastal communities in the Philippines to sea level rise. This is the challenge that we must address because according to a study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), sea level rise will affect at least 13.6 million Filipinos who will have to relocate to higher, safer places,” Legarda stressed.


The 2012 ADB study “Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific,” said that the Philippines is among the most vulnerable countries to climate change and it is ranked 5th in terms of individuals affected by sea level rise.


The Senator also noted a study by the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) Climate Change Program which showed that a total of 167,290 hectares of seashore land in 171 coastal towns under 10 provinces will go underwater due to a one-meter sea level rise.


The 10 provinces are Cagayan, Palawan, Iloilo, Zamboanga Sibugay, Camarines Sur, Negros Occidental, Capiz, Bohol, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu.


Legarda, who also chairs the Senate Committee on Climate Change, said that while there is little the country can do to prevent sea level rise, it can reduce the risks and act ahead of time to protect the communities that will be most affected.


“With the threat of sea level rise, local government units especially of the 10 most vulnerable provinces must already update their respective comprehensive land use plans and they have to gradually relocate communities near the seashore land. Since we are also experiencing stronger storms, we have to build resilient infrastructure and it is important to strengthen the defense of coastal communities by building natural buffers through massive mangrove reforestation,” she explained.


“Sea level rise is a great challenge for an archipelagic country like the Philippines and while we cannot prevent it from happening, we must do everything in our capacity to reduce its effect on our people. Even if our country is a minor emitter of greenhouse gas (GHG), which is the major cause of global warming, we still have to pursue a low carbon lifestyle and strengthen environment conservation efforts as a way of urging other nations, especially the developed countries that are major emitters of GHG, to drastically reduce their GHG emissions and assist countries that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” Legarda concluded.