Investing in Resilience in Response to Climate Change

Hans T. Sy

As a country experiencing an average of 20 typhoons a year and of increasing intensity, the Philippines is third among the countries most vulnerable to climate change due to its location.   

This makes investing in disaster resilience vital to building a more sustainable future for the country.  

“If you look at the geography of the Philippines there is really no other country before the Philippines (geographically) that would slowdown the typhoons. So as the typhoons hit and get worse and worse, we get hit worse and worse,” Hans T. Sy, Chairman of the Executive Committee of SM Prime Holdings, Inc. said in an interview with TBD Media for the 50 Sustainability & Climate Leaders campaign. 

SM, through SM Investments Corporation joined a business group and is the only Filipino company among dedicated global sustainability advocates in the 50 Sustainability & Climate Leaders campaign with a focus on responding to climate change.

SM, through SM Prime, started investing in the integration of disaster resilient features in its projects long before the threat of climate change was recognized, allotting 10% of capital expenditure to disaster resilient features in design and construction. 

SM City Marikina, for one, rises on top of 246 concrete stilts and has withstood numerous typhoons since its construction in 2008. Most recently in late 2020, Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco) caused the Marikina River’s water levels to rise, flooding the city. Thousands of residents took shelter in the mall’s complex, which provided safety and continuous access to supplies.

Similarly, during Typhoon Ulysses, the mall area of SM City Masinag remained flood-free. Its design incorporated a water holding tank with a volume equivalent to seven Olympic-sized swimming pools. The water holding tank collected rainwater not only from the mall’s roof deck and perimeter but also from nearby subdivisions by allowing their drainage systems to connect to the mall.

For decades, SM malls have served as relief centers, pioneering community services such as free parking and basic shelter during extraordinary natural disasters.

SM Prime also integrates energy efficiency, waste management and even traffic control measures across its properties to create substantial positive impact in the overall environmental sustainability and safety of its operations.  It also installed Sewage Treatment Plants in its properties which treat and recycle water for non-potable and operational requirements.

Multi-sectoral cooperation and collaboration are keys to making meaningful impact on climate change initiatives.  

Mr. Sy is the Co-Chair of ARISE-Philippines, a local network of the Private Sector Alliance for Resilient Societies led by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and from the shared vision of private sector institutions for a disaster-resilient and climate-smart Philippines. 

He was the first Filipino global Board Member of UNDRR Private Sector Advisory Board, a platform for businesses to share knowledge and strategies toward investing particularly in disaster resilience and management.

He is also the Co-Chair, representing the Private Sector, in the National Resilience Council which aims to strengthen collaboration between the academe, civil society organizations and public and private sectors to help address multiple challenges of disaster risk and to build resilient communities.

“The private sector should work closely with the government. Climate change is looming over our Mother Earth. If we can contribute no matter how little and if I can get everybody to be aware of it, I think we will make an impact. It’s never too late,” Mr. Sy said.

Watch more about the 50 Sustainability & Climate Leaders: 


50 CL Leaders: