When will PH learn from past disasters?
MANILA, Philippines - The world has warned the Philippines several times to brace for severe disasters.
The country topped the list of Asian countries hit by disasters in 2011, the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) reported. It is the 3rd most disaster-prone country in the world, according to the World Disaster Report in 2012.
A World Bank report released in 2013 projected a 4-degree Celsius warmer world within the century, a scenario of unprecedented heat waves, drought, and major floods, affecting vulnerable sectors, particularly the poor.
But the country has not learned from the past tragedies, said Senator Loren Legarda, who heads the Senate Climate Change Committee.
“We should now be experts in preparing for typhoons. After all, we have already experienced Ondoy, Pepeng, Pablo and Sendong. Unfortunately, Yolanda happened and we only realize that we have yet to do what we ought to do,” she said.
Legarda, a UN regional champion for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA), earlier stressed that the Philippines has enough laws that will help its communities prepare for climate change-related disasters. The problem lies in the enforcement of these policies, according to Legarda.
The World Bank study particularly pointed out that national climate change and disaster reduction plans are not integrated in local government plans. It said gaps in climate policy efforts across sectors and levels of government stifle their effectiveness in terms of preparedness, response, and recovery.
Legarda stressed that even if disasters hit specific areas, their impact affects the whole country, particularly the economy.
Citing Yolanda (Haiyan) as an example, Legarda said the losses incurred due to the super typhoon reached at least P571billion, or nearly 5% of the country's annual gross domestic product (GDP).
Disasters cost the country at least P15 billion every year, CRED reported in 2012.
About 85% of the country's economy is vulnerable to natural disasters, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) revealed in a recent study.
The global losses from disasters during the century has already reached about US$2.5 trillion.
“Tragedies such as Ondoy, Sendong and Yolanda create the context for learning and growing. It is these disasters that make us resilient. It is our shared memory of death, loss and survival that should drive us to build a resilient future,” Legarda added.
Factors that contribute to vulnerability
According to Legarda, there are 5 major factors that contribute to the country's vulnerability to disasters:
- Ecosystems decline
- Exposure of economic assets
- Rapid growth of cities
- Climate change
The senator said these can be overcome if the government will take the following actions:
- Environmental program audit
- Risk-sensitive planning and investment
- Strengthening social protection
- Advancing economic and business resilience
- Promoting community resilience
“As a fundamental development strategy, building resilience would help our government sustain the country’s socio-economic gains, make a difference in poverty reduction, and eventually ensure the achievement of sustainable development goals,” Legarda said.
At the Manila 2013 Social Good Summit, Legarda said that there is a need to redefine what development means in the face of climate change that threatens the poor who are most vulnerable to disasters. – Rappler.com