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Building a More Resilient Philippines

Australia and IFC are working together in creating safer and more livable buildings in the Philippines


Homes built along the Manggahan Floodway in Pasig (by World Bank Photo Collection)

Pots and buckets serve a dual purpose for many Filipino families. They’re not just for cooking and washing – they’re also ideal for catching drips from a leaky roof. As a young boy growing up in La Union, a province that sits squarely in the typhoon path in the Northwest of the Philippines, I knew to place them around the house whenever there was news of an impending typhoon. I remember being annoyed as the droplets hit my face and splattered on my notebook while I was doing my homework, and there were times when I had to skip school altogether because my uniform and textbooks were soaking wet.

Leaky roofs are the least of many Filipinos’ worries when bad weather strikes. There are around 20 typhoons a year in the country, and many families often wake up to rapidly rising floodwater inundating their houses, sending them scrambling to place electrical appliances and other important belongings on top of taller furniture in order to save them. Landslides, tsunamis, fires, earthquakes, and volcanoes add to the mix, making the Philippines vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The increasing frequency of disasters, brought about by climate change and aggravated by rapid urbanization, not only costs money, but also lives. Urgent action is needed, and one way we can start is by rethinking how we design and construct our buildings.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group and the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets, is developing a new tool that has the potential to revolutionize the Philippines’ real-estate sector. Created with support from Australia and other partners, the Building Resilience Index (BRI) allows real estate professionals across residential, office, retail, industrial, educational and hospitality sectors, to assess, manage, and disclose the resilience of their buildings. The index can be accessed through a free, easy-to-use online platform that allows users to identify water, wind, geoseismic, and fire hazards that affect a building based on its location.

BRI’s real power lies in its ability to identify the most cost-effective mitigation measures to protect a building from natural disasters. In choosing the Philippines as the pilot country for BRI ahead of a global rollout, Ommid Saberi, Product Manager and Global Lead of Building Resilience Index at IFC, envisions a country where all buildings are assessed, rated, and resiliently designed, constructed, and operated. The first of its kind in the world, BRI can potentially change how we design, construct, and operate buildings.

“The value of BRI lies in how it provides a common language for developers, financial institutions, investors, and governments, that can be used for resilience-based decision making and action,” said Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, Steven J. Robinson AO.

Major Filipino real estate developers including Imperial Homes Corporation, NEO, and SM Group have already committed to using a beta version of the tool for their projects. They have also pledged to take part in the Building Resilience Commitment campaign, a call to action to the Philippines’ real-estate sector to improve the resilience of buildings and cities. As part of the campaign, which launched in August, leading developers were asked to pledge 1 million square meters of local building space for the construction or retrofitting of real estate projects that are more resilient to natural hazards. The campaign has already exceeded its target, with developers pledging more than 1.5 million square meters to date.

Through BRI, all the technology and resources we need to create safer and more livable buildings and cities are now within reach. The ultimate beneficiaries are Filipino families, who are most vulnerable to the impacts of natural disasters. A widespread rollout of this innovative tool could spell an end to children missing days of school, and bringing out the pots and buckets whenever it rains.

Australia recognizes that planning, preparing, and responding to climate-related impacts is key to supporting a prosperous, stable, and resilient Philippines. In the spirit of mateship and bayanihan, we will continue to work with our partners, such as the International Finance Corporation, in developing tools to help the Philippines and the region adapt to climate change.

Angelo Tan is Country Lead for the Philippines, Climate Business, International Finance Corporation. He received a Master in Sustainable Built Environment at UNSW Sydney under an Australia Awards Scholarship, which was granted by the Australian Government. His childhood experiences have shaped his professional and personal commitment to green and resilient buildings.

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