A pioneering research project on building sustainable and resilient cities in the Philippine capital of Metro Manila has chosen to focus on the suburban growth center of Marikina, being one of the most vulnerable and hardly hit areas during the historic natural calamity of tropical storm Ondoy (international code name: Typhoon Ketsana) in 2009.

The study, a first in the Asia Pacific region, was spearheaded by power, energy and gas technology company Shell together with multi-sectoral stakeholders in Marikina City such as representatives from the local government unit, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP), the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) and various other non-government organisations.

The city resilience study revealed challenges and opportunities that can enhance Marikina’s economic potential, liveability and resiliency against urbanisation and climate change, according to Suiee Suarez, Shell global campaign manager for Future of Energy.

“It was a product of intensive engagement and gatherings that identified the challenges of the city and resulted a better understanding of its needs,” explained Suarez.

The study follows a seminal research publication on urbanisation and resiliency dubbed “New Lenses on Future Cities,” which Shell unveiled during its annual Powering Progress Together (PPT) Forum–Asia held in Manila in 2014. The report reviewed 500 cities around the globe with more than 750,000 inhabitants, as well as 21 megacities with over 10 million inhabitants in order to understand various energy uses that would support city planning and development.

The PPT is a global dialogue on sustainable development fostered by Shell that engages thought leaders and action-makers from the public, private and civil society sectors. The forum serves as a venue that primarily discusses the studies and findings of the Shell Scenarios group, which spearheads the company’s practice of exploring plausible alternative visions of the future to help test and strengthen its current business decisions.

With its work in scenario-building for more than 40 years, Shell is studying cities to better understand challenges and also opportunities posed by urbanisation, one of which is developing resilience to various stresses. By 2040, it is expected that around 80 percent of the world’s demand will be concentrated in such urban centers.

The joint study highlighted five fundamental challenges that could hinder Marikina City’s potential for growth and sustainability. These are: affordable and dependable electricity, road and public transport infrastructure, waste management, flood management, and governance and coordination implementation.

An integrated solution was also provided in the study to help the city government and its constituents envision and develop a more “green,” resilient and sustainable city. From the five identified challenges, the range of solutions proposed are the use of a distributed energy system integrating both alternative and conventional power systems inside the city; efficient transport utilising CNG (compressed natural gas) or LNG (liquified natural gas) technology with corresponding road networks; waste management, recovery, and recycling, including waste-to-power options; flood management through green infrastructure; and governance and implementation of sustainable projects.

“Our city is fortunate to experience such meaningful partnerships. It was really an opportunity for us to better understand and deal with the challenges in Marikina,” stated Mayor Del De Guzman. “The Shell City Resilience Study will really be a lot of help for us, as we will be able to fine tune our plans for the future of Marikina City.”

“The Marikina City study has been very exciting and rewarding. It has been a steep learning curve for us to take a conceptual framework and realise it through Marikina City. It helped us understand how a city thinks, how the people inside the city want to evolve and what options are available to them to address their challenges to realise their vision for their city,” said Glynn Ellis, head of the Shell Scenarios team.

According to Ellis, Shell is currently looking at other areas in the Philippines where they could replicate the study, and where the learnings in Marikina can be shared. He hopes that other cities and growing isolated communities across Southeast Asia would recognise this opportunity of collaborating towards better urbanisation.

"Ellis further underscored that sustainable urbanisation is critical for Asia, as it is home to half of the world’s megacities. “The growth rate of urban settlers in the cities not only presents opportunities, but also challenges. As such, one cannot miss the great pressure it puts upon vital resources such as energy, water, and food,” he explained."

“We recognise the substantial role of careful planning as a key element in achieving sustainable growth, and the role of well-managed cities as drivers for economic development, prosperity and quality of life of its residents,” he concluded.