Some RP provinces too poor to prepare for disasters

July 8, 2008 - Eight of the country’s poorest provinces are exposed to multiple natural hazards, but they, like most localities in the Philippines, lack the capability to prepare for disasters.

Vinod Thomas, director-general of the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group, today said that lack of resources is a major constraint to the ability of local government units (LGUs) to perform its role in minimizing the damages of disasters to lives, properties, and the economy.

Outdated policy frameworks, and the mismatch between planning and budgeting, also prevent LGUs, even the national government, from having responsive and effective disaster risk management (DRM) plans, Thomas said at a seminar on natural disasters and environmental protection held Monday in Pasig City.

He identified the eight of the poorest provinces that are hazard-prone: Tawi-tawi, Zamboanga del Norte, Maguindanao, Surigao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Northern Samar, Masbate, and Misamis Occidental.

Most vulnerable

The poor, Thomas said, are the hardest hit by disasters. Citing the World Development Report 2003, he said that people in low-income countries are four times as likely as people in high-income countries to die in a natural disaster.

“Poor people and poor communities are frequently primary victims…[because] they live in crowded makeshift houses. Injury, disability, and loss of life directly affect their main asset, their labor” he said.

Father Francis Lucas, chair of the Asian NGO Coalition, said vulnerability is related to poverty. “They (the poor) become helpless, hopeless, and hapless.”

LGUs are often saddled with institutional and financial constraints that local disaster coordinating councils are not created anymore or do not have the capacities to assume their functions, Thomas said.

“Calamity fund [both at the national and regional level] is deemed insufficient to address all phases of disaster risk management. Vast body of knowledge, skills, and tools on DRMs has not systematically trickled down to LGUs,” he said.

Marion Andres, vice mayor of Marikina City, meanwhile, said most barangays have low financial resources, few trained medical staff, and lack equipment. “There should be good working relationship with senators and congressmen to purchase needed equipment and communication facilities.”

Increasing risks

In June, Typhoon Fengshen lashed Visayas and Luzon and caused flooding, particularly in Western Visayas.

Thomas said there are increasing risks now in the Philippines. “[Although] the number of typhoons remains the same, the intensity is increasing. Damage is greater because forest areas are shrinking.”

Increase in urban population, poverty and the geographic locations of Philippine cities, he said, will also contribute to the higher risks posed by disasters.

“Ten of Philippine key cities, including Manila, are located along coastlines, making them prone to inundation brought by the rise in sea level.”

Thomas added that the concentration of population in urban areas also increase the risk. Urban population stands at 52 percent and is expected to reach 60 percent by 2010. “With the rising poverty, it is estimated that at least 40 percent of the urban population live in unsafe informal settlements.” (abs-cbnnews.com)

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