‘We need all hands on deck’

It used to be that the Philippines was only “one of” the most disaster-prone countries in the world, as a report on Relief Web described the country. Now the status has been “elevated” to “most disaster-prone,” and that is according to the results of a study released recently.

Two German institutions — Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft and the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict at Ruhr University Bochum — in their World Risk Index said “the Philippines is facing the greatest disaster risk among 193 countries in the world based on its exposure and vulnerability to natural disasters.”

The Philippines lies in the typhoon belt of Asia, and each year, some 20 tropical cyclones pass through our archipelago. In the past decade alone, these have left massive floods and property destruction in their wake.

The most recent one flattened vast agricultural lands in Luzon, almost ready for harvest most of them.

Following President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s optimistic pronouncements about transforming the Philippines’ agricultural sector, the entry of super-typhoon “Karding” into the country’s area of responsibility last September kept expectations low.

It was the Sierra Mountain range that, experts say, lessened the degree of damage the 11th tropical cyclone to have entered the Philippines wrought on surrounding cities.

Filipinos have gotten used to the increasing intensity of these super typhoons. Many are likely to heed local government calls to action, such as evacuation to safer places.

Yet one thing that perhaps many fail to realize is that the yearly occurrences are not likely to ease — they are getting stronger, and government agencies tasked to manage disaster response and relief efforts must always prepare for the worst.

As a “strong advocate of climate change and mitigation,” Senator Loren Legarda recently emphasized, “At no other time in the history of this country have we seen the confluence of high-level reactions to the dual threats of climate change and biodiversity collapse.”

The senator is a key figure in the Philippines’ participation in global efforts to stem the degradation of the planet, including the High Ambition Coalition and Global Ocean Alliance.

“The HAC has set an aspiration of protecting at least 30 percent of the world’s land and ocean, through increased public and private financing, to ensure long-term management and local governance, and clear implementation mechanisms to nature so we can recover ecosystems by the year 2030,” she said.

With the Philippines identified as the most vulnerable to disasters, it behooves the government to put in place not just disaster management but also resilience.

“Pro-active” is the word used by Assistant Secretary Bernardo Rafaelito Alejandro IV of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in a report of an online news site. Improving the country’s disaster preparedness, he said, is a task shared by each one of us.

In the realm of government, it is not enough to rely solely on a “department of disaster resilience,” a proposal renewed in the Senate following “Karding.”

We need not just “first responders” to calamities, but also the different departments of government to collectively create a Philippine Development Plan that could save us in a future of at least 20 ever-intensifying cyclones a year.

To quote Legarda once more: “For preserving the life-giving capacity of our archipelago, we need all hands on deck, a whole of government and a whole of society approach.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *