26 provinces join UN disaster programBy Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Some 1,400 cities and other local governments worldwide, including 113 in the Philippines, have signed up for the United Nations’ Making Cities and other Communities Resilient to Disaster campaign, according to the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR).
In a report, a copy of which was furnished the Inquirer, the Geneva-based UNISDR said 26 provinces, 30 cities and 57 municipalities in the Philippines had joined the program, which the UN agency launched in May 2010.
The figures put the Philippines in fourth place among 92 UN member-nations that have so far joined the campaign.
Ahead of the Philippines on the list are Austria, Lebanon and India, with 280, 250 and 128 local governments, respectively, joining the program.
At least nine Metro Manila cities are part of the program: Manila, Makati, Quezon, Pasay, Marikina, Malabon, Pasig, Navotas and Valenzuela.
Aside from the Philippines, five other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have joined the drive: Thailand, with nine local governments, followed by Indonesia, eight; Vietnam, seven; and Laos and Malaysia, three each.
Among other countries participating in the program are Brazil, 51; Serbia, 50; Iran, 47; Sri Lanka, 44; Italy and Pakistan, 36 each; Peru, 34; Honduras, 30; El Salvador, 25; Chile, 24; Canada, eight; China, seven; Bangladesh, France and the United States, four each; Haiti, three; and Germany and the United Kingdom, one each.
In a resilient community, “disasters are minimized because the population lives in areas with organized services and infrastructure that adhere to sensible building codes,” the UNISDR said.
There are no informal settlements built on floodplains or steep slopes “because no other land is available” and “a competent and accountable” local government is concerned about sustainable urbanization and “commits the necessary resources to manage and organize itself before, during and after a natural hazard event,” it said.
“People are empowered to participate, decide and plan together with local authorities,” it said, noting “an ability to respond and implement immediate disaster recovery strategies and quickly restore basic services after such an event.”
The campaign aims to “support sustainable development by promoting disaster resilience activities and increasing local level understanding of disaster risk.”
In October, the UNISDR said three Philippine local governments—Albay province, Makati City and San Francisco town on Camotes Island, Cebu—were on its list of 29 model communities worldwide that were “exemplars in disaster risk reduction and management.”
Among other local governments on the list were Venice, Italy; Bonn, Germany; Austria’s Tyrol province; Mumbai, India; Bangkok, Thailand; Cape Town, South Africa; Santa Fe, Argentina; and San Francisco, California.
The Philippines was one of four disaster-prone countries in the region that were cited late last year by UNISDR and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific for having reduced their vulnerability to disasters despite their poverty.
The three other nations were Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia, host of last year’s 5th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.
In their joint Asia-Pacific Disaster Report for 2012, the two UN agencies also named the Philippines as one of 18 countries in the region that have made disaster risk reduction part of their long-term development plans.
They pointed out that the Philippines passed in 2010 a Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act.
The Philippines has also “shown that well-targeted social protection measures are not only affordable but they can also reduce vulnerability to disasters to a great extent,” they added.
During a visit to flood-devastated areas in northern Mindanao in 2011, Margareta Wahlstrom, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative on disaster risk reduction, expressed hope that more countries would aspire to become a model like the Philippines, which she said had already advanced in disaster risk reduction policies.
But she warned that “exposure to disaster risk is growing faster than our ability to build resilience.”
According to Wahlstrom, “the challenge is to arrest both the growing rate of exposure and rising vulnerability. Reducing risk successfully is about saving lives, jobs, homes and valuable infrastructure, such as schools, health facilities and roads.”