Is Iloilo city prepared to deal with floods on the scale of Typhoon Frank? Not yet – but a new study might help make it so.

Iloilo Aerial  by Gregg Yan & WWF (Media)
Iloilo city sits at the edge of the largest marshland in the Western Visayas. Its low-lying eastern parts are flood-prone, while its western portions feature rolling terrain better suited for roads. WWF recommends shifting infrastructure to the west. (Gregg Yan / WWF)

Sitting on a vast, flat alluvial plain, Iloilo city is perched at the edge of the largest marshland in the Western Visayas. In 2013, Iloilo’s Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) said that up to 80% of the province was prone to flooding. Recognizing how more powerful storms can cripple infrastructure by rendering roads impassable, the Philippine arm of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) partnered with the Iloilo city government to identify All-Weather Urban Corridors to minimize downtime whenever heavy rains submerge low-lying portions of the city. The study was unveiled to local stakeholders last 13 October in Mandurriao, just three days after heavy rains submerged parts of the city.

“All-Weather Urban Corridors are ‘rain or shine’ routes connecting one point to another. For example, a series of flood-free roads connecting sea ports to marketplaces will ensure that the price of fish sold in Iloilo’s public markets will not ridiculously spike each time it floods,” explains WWF-Philippines Climate and Energy Programme Head Atty. Gia Ibay. “On the other hand, flood-free roads connecting the airport to Iloilo’s commercial areas makes it possible to do inter-island business despite heavy rains.”

Using All-Weather Urban Corridors, vehicles can efficiently travel under any weather condition. Properly connected, all-weather roads form a network of pathways. To generate detailed results coherent with the study’s objectives, secondary data from various agencies was utilized to analyze the extent of work needed for ground-truthing and fieldwork. Maps were generated using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and utilized for fieldwork preparation, planning and analysis.

After drafting a series of smaller maps, a final map was created which includes all inputs and feedback from partner agencies, together with working assumptions on major transportation highways affecting the inflow and outflow of goods and services – connecting markets and ports, surrounding supply sources, plus planned development projects.

The study presented several corridor options, plus practical recommendations in dealing with floods, such as shifting development to high ground, investing in better drainage systems and retrofitting existing roads to weather stronger storms. The project is being supported by the Yuchengco Group of Companies (YGC), a long-time ally of WWF for its Liga Para sa Klima workshops, which have successfully engaged 31 LGUs nationwide, including Iloilo City. Flooding was consistently identified by all participating LGUs as a major climate change issue, prompting the creation of the study.

Since 2012, Liga Para sa Klima has gathered community members from various sectors for collaborative workshops to discuss climate change issues and identify possible solutions. It has also been an excellent venue for local governments to share past accomplishments, plans and existing programs to address climate change.

A separate study conducted by WWF for Iloilo in 2011 shows that urbanization was the path the city was taking towards development. As such, the city will continuously become more and more dependent on outside sources for its food. Its four main sources of new investment are financing, real estate, insurance and business services. Therefore, it is critical for Iloilo to maintain good access via land, sea and air.

Adds WWF-Philippines Vice-chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, “Do not fear change – learn to embrace it. Roads are the lifelines of cities – keeping them operational ensures continuous economic growth in the face of climate change. We are hopeful that this study shall be used by other flood-prone Philippine provinces as a practical climate adaptation measure.”