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Disaster Risk Reduction Scenario in the Philippines

The following was lifted from Chapter 1 of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan (NDRRMP) 2011-2028 which most appropriately describes the disaster / DRR scenario in the Philippines.

Risk Profile | Progress on the Implementation of HFA and SNAP | Lessons Learned and Gaps Identified

Risk Profile

There are compelling reasons why the Philippines should adopt disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) and climate change adaptation (CCA). It is exposed to disasters and hazards due to its geography and geology as well as the presence of internal disputes in some areas.

Tropical cyclones and its sequential effects of rain and windstorms, as well as floods are the most prevalent types of hydro-meteorological hazards in the country. Between 1997 and 2007, 84 tropical cyclones entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR). These typhoons resulted to a total of 13,155 in human casualty and more than 51 million families have been affected. Economic losses due to typhoon damages in agriculture, infrastructures, and private properties are estimated to reach P158.242-B. Some of the most devastating floods and landslides are triggered by these typhoons that happened also within this period. The El Nino Southern Oscillation which is a periodic disaster recorded high economic costs in just a single occurrence. In 2010, out of the almost PhP 25-M worth of damages to properties caused by natural disasters, tropical cyclones contributed to more than half. These affected more than 3 million people in that year alone.

Environmental factors such as denuded forests aggravate flood risks. The pace of deforestation since the 1930s accelerated in the 1950s and 1960s, before falling slightly in the 1980s. Even now, the effects of loose soil and reduced forest cover from past forestry activities are felt in frequent landslides and floods. Recent events show that the annual monsoon season in the country has brought severe flooding in most areas. In 2011, most of the disasters that claimed the lives of people and affected properties and livelihoods of the most vulnerable were brought about by increased rainfall which caused massive flash flooding in areas which do not normally experience such. Between January to September 2011, more than 50 incidents of flash flooding and flooding and more than 30 landslides occurred, mostly caused by increased rainfall and illegal logging. Typhoon Sendong alone caused the lives of more than 1,000 people and damaged properties amounting to billions of pesos.

In addition, the Philippines is situated along a highly seismic area lying along the Pacific Ring of Fire and is highly-prone to earthquakes. According to the Philippine Institute on Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVLOCS), the counrty experiences an average of five (5) earthquakes a day. Earthquake disasters are not as frequent as the typhoons and flooding that take place in the Philippines. Nevertheless, the impact generated on affected communities is usually massive and devastating. Earthquake-induced disasters were few in numbers and in terms of casualties. Within the 10-year period five (5) destructive earthquakes were recorded and human casualty included 15 deaths and 119 persons injured. Damage to the economy was estimated to reach P0.207-B. The 1990 Luzon Earthquake, the Moro Gulf Tsunami and the collapse of the Ruby Tower were the most notably devastating earthquake disasters in the Philippines.The Philippines is also prone to volcanic eruptions being situated along the the Pacific Ring of Fire where two major tectonic plates (Philippine Sea and Eurasian) meet. This explains the occurrence of earthquakes and tsunamis and the existence of around 300 volcanoes of which 22 are active.

Based on the data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), between 1990 and 2006, annual direct damages caused by disasters amount to PhP20-B per year. This is roughly 0.5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on the average per year. In 2009 alone, Tropical Storm Ondoy and Typhoon Pepeng caused substantial damages and losses equivalent to about 2.7% of the country’s GDP.

Hazards become disasters only if vulnerable people and resources are exposed to them. People who live in poverty and adverse socio-economic considitions are highly vulnerable to disasters, especially those who live in river pathways and along the most hazard-prone areas. This explains why some parts of the country are more prone to specific hazards than others; some parts are exposed to more hazards than others.In an analysis of natural disaster hotspots by the Hazard Management Unit of the World Bank in 2005, the Philippines is among the countries where large percentages of population reside in disaster prone areas. In the 2011 World Risk Report published by United Nations University and the Institute of Environment and Human Security, looking into the four components of risk (exposure, susceptibility, coping, and adapt capacities), the Philippines is the third most disaster risk country worldwide.

Aside from natural causes, the country also experiences human-induced disasters. These are brought about by hazards that are of political and socio-economic origins, among others. Many are forced to evacuate during times of conflict. Violence continue to plague the country, with most of the fighting in the South. Intense fighting between government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) during the first half of year 2009 resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians. The government and the MILF decided to lay down their arms and work toward peace accord that had failed in 2009 in Malaysia. On the other hand, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), labelled a terrorist organization, continued to carry out bombings and rebels were killed during clashes with the military in the latter part of 2009. These human-induced disasters caused by armed fightings in the South continue to threaten the security of civilian communities which result into the displacement of thousands of civilians. So long as there is no peace settlement mechanism in Mindanao, internally displaced civilians will remain a given collateral damage of every armed conflicts. Such disasters consequently cause anxiety, lost of lives, destruction of properties and sometimes socio-political stability.

Progress on the Implementation of  HFA and SNAP

Because of the country’s susceptibility to natural and human-induced disasters, efforts have been made for the past several years to build people’s capacities and resilience to disasters. This is in line with the country’s commitment to achieve the targets set by the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) and its commitment to build resilient communities as expressed by its adoption of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) in 2005. The HFA was formulated and adopted by 168 governments at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction held in Kobe, Japan and is aimed at building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters and reducing vulnerabilities and risks to hazards. It aims to have (a) effective integration of disaster risk considerations into sustainable development policies, planning and programming at all levels–disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness, and vulnerability reduction; (b) development and strengthening of institutions, mechanisms, and capacities at all levels; and (c) systematic incorporation of risk reduction approaches into the design and implementation of emergency preparedness, response, and recovery programmes in the recontsruction of affected communities.

On June 21, 2010, through Executive Order Number 888, the Strategic National Action Plan (SNAP) on DRR 2009-2019 was adopted by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The SNAP is a road map indicating the vision and strategic objectives on DRR of the country for the next ten years and was based on (a) an assessment of the disaster risks, vulnerability, and capacity; (b) gap analysis that identifies and maps out significant on-going initiatives; and (c) DRR acivities based on the HFA that are considered by stakeholders as achieveable priorities for country, with adequate relevant resources and capacity for implementation over the next three to ten years.

The SNAP for DRR was developed using a set of assumptions, scenarios, and related information up to the year 2006. Its development and implementation were based on two guiding principles, namely:

1. DRR is directly linked to poverty alleviation and sustainable development; and
2. DRR entails the participation of various stakeholders in order to mainstream DRR in relevant sectors in the society.

Based on both the HFA progress reports and the SNAP review and using the four (4) DRRM aspects under R.A. 10121, the following are the country’s successes in DRRM:

I. Disaster Prevention and Mitigation

  • Conduct of risk assessments in various areas in the country
  • Development and establishment of several early warning systems
  • Development of tools on risk assessment
  • Increasing involvement of communities and local government units (LGUs) in disaster risk management
  • Development of DRRM mainstreaming tools into the national and sub-national planning systems
  • National, institutional and legal frameworks in DRRM
  • Presence of functional multi-sectoral platforms
  • Resource allocation

II. Disaster Preparedness

  • Conduct of various DRRM research work
  • Conduct of multi-stakeholders dialogues
  • Conduct of various capacity building activities
  • Development and regular review of contingency plans
  • Development of information, education, and communication (IEC) materials
  • Development of information and database generation
  • Inclusion of DRRM into school curricula (especially in basic education)
  • Existence of procedures on disaster communication

III. Disaster Response

  • Established insititutional mechanisms for disaster response operations
  • Improved skills in search, rescue, and retrieval operations

IV. Disaster Rehabilitation and Recovery

  • Mainstreaming of DRR in social, economic, and human settlements development plans
  • Conduct of post disaster assessments
  • Integration of DRR into post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation processes
  • Incorporating DRR elements in planning and management of human settlements

Lessons Learned and Gaps Identified

DRR has gained a lot of attention and momentum in the country over the past several years. Numerous projects and activities have been undertaken by various Philippine stakeholders and agencies in DRRM. However, sustaining the positive results and scaling them up to effect rippling positive changes in the lives and livelihoods of the people have been constant challenges. Threats remain. Disasters and people’s risk to disasters are still present.

Addressing the underlying causes vulnerable
At the heart of DRR is addressing the underlying causes of people’s vulnerabilities. For the past several years, DRR in the country has focused more on efforts around disaster preparedness and response and not so much in identifying the hazard-prone areas and other factors which contribute to people’s exposure to disasters; incorporating risk analysis to development plans; and building people’s capacities towards sustainable livelihood options. Although DRR has been gaining attention among peoples and institutions, complete paradigm shift from “disasters as an immediate product of hazards” to “disasters as a function of people’s vulnerability” has not yet fully happened. To be able to reduce the risks of people to disasters, more attention must be given towards proper, continuous and sustained conduct of disaster risk assesments (hazards, vulnerability, exposure) and using them to mainstream into development plans DRRM and CCA activities and priority areas which will address the underlying causes of vulnerabilities of the people. To address these causes, the availablity of different livelihood options for people should also be seen as a way of reducing their vulnerability especially in times of disasters.

Although these two acronyms are essentially linked, conceptual and operational divides exist. Understanding that these two, when converged only mean one thing–increasing people’s capacity to adapt to the changes and hazards brought about by the climate and reducing their vulnerabilities. In the country, DRR and CCA are not only seen, in general, as two opposing concepts but they are likewise divided by institutional arrangements and have worked in isolation from each other. Because of the effects of climate change, more hazards are expected to hit the country, which in turn will affect the most vulnerable communities, exposing their lives and livelihoods to more risks. By increasing the resilience of people to disasters through risk reduction efforts, people will be able to adapt to the effects of climate changes and become less vulnerable.

Mainstreaming of DRR and CCA into development plans
Because DRRM and CCA are not viewed within a sustainable development framework by most agencies and communities, the development of programs are done intermittently or only when there are disasters. Also, programs and projects are not sustained because they are not mainstreamed into the development plans and more importantly, into national and local policies – both of which will secure sustained funding and political support.

Information, capacities, and skills on DRRM and CCA
Even if a number of IEC materials have already been produced on disasters, most of them still highlight just disaster preparedness and response. Development of information and campaign materials which will help people understand DRRM and CCA, how they link together, and how these two concepts contribute to the reduction of their risks to future disasters are of utmost importance soonest. Likewise, having institutionalized mechanisms for knowledge development, sharing and management will contribute to the documentation, replication and scaling up of good practices on DRRM and CCA.

DRRM and Disaster Response complement each other (and it is not either or)
With increased and sustained efforts in DRRM, lesser disaster response in the future is envisioned. However, in a country like the Philippines, where more and new hazards continue to be present, disaster response operations need to be continuously enhanced within a risk reduction approach. By ensuring that the country does disaster risk mitigation, prevention, preparedness, recovery, and rehabilitation; creation of better, more and more sustainable institutional mechanisms, and applying the learnings from good practices in DRRM, better, more effective, and efficient and lesser disaster response will take place.

Building capacities of peoples and institutions
Continuous, targeted, and competency-based capacity building programs on DRRM and CCA should be developed and conducted in order to be effective and responsive to the needs of peoples, communities, and institutions. These capacity building activities will help build understanding and skills with the end in view of really applying DRRM and CCA principles, concepts, and concrete action steps towards building their resilience.

Building back better
The combination of increased knowledge and capacities; mainstreaming into development plans and progams; and building institutional mechanisms through monitoring, evaluation, and learning, building back better can be achieved. Over time, improvements in the way DRRM and CCA are addressed should be seen. DRRM can and will happen if acts are put together and each stakeholder becomes a better and more capable and more resilient to disaster and climate risks.