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ASIAN RISK REDUCTION CONFERENCE

PH resilience vs disaster cited

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia—The Philippines is one of four disaster-prone countries in the Asia-Pacific region that have reduced their vulnerability to disasters despite their poverty, according to two United Nations (UN) agencies.

The three other Asia-Pacific nations cited by the United Nations  Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) are Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia, host of this week’s 5th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR).

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In their joint, 134-page Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2012, the UNISDR and the ESCAP also cited the Philippines as one of 18 countries in the region that have made disaster risk reduction part of their long-term development plans.

The Philippines, they noted, passed in 2010 a Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act.

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Like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Thailand, 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.”

The same report, released during Tuesday’s opening of the biennial event, also hailed Albay Gov. Joey Salceda as “one of the global champions of building disaster resilience at the local level.”

Salceda “has introduced a very pragmatic approach by reducing disaster risk exposure first and improving vulnerability next,” the report said.

Exception, not rule

“Unfortunately, such proactive policies are still the exception, not the rule in the region,”  the report said.

Earlier, in its Making Cities Resilient Report, the UNISDR said Albay province, as well as two other Philippine local government units—Makati City and San Francisco town on Camotes Island, Cebu—were now on its list of 29 model communities worldwide in disaster risk management and reduction.

These local governments have been noted for their “best practices” on a wide range of challenges, including flood management, early warning, earthquake reconstruction and legislation.

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In a statement released on Tuesday, the UNISDR said the Asia-Pacific region was “paying a huge price for extreme weather events which are now impacting negatively on the region’s economic development.”

The region is the most disaster-prone area in the world, “with almost two million people killed in disasters between 1970 and 2011, representing 75 percent of all disaster fatalities globally,” the agency said.

Margareta Wahlstrom, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative on disaster risk reduction, warned that “exposure to disaster risk is growing faster than our ability to build resilience and Asia’s rapid economic growth is partly responsible for it.”

Dev’t without danger

“This was very obvious during the floods which plagued much of the region last year. Of course, the challenge is not to stop development, but 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,” Wahlstrom said.

For her part, ESCAP executive secretary Noeleen Heyzer said that “exposure to hazards has multiplied as urban centers grew, and people and economic activities expanded into increasingly exposed and hazard-prone areas.”

The UNISDR-ESCAP report said that “for many in the Asia-Pacific, 2011 will be remembered for major disasters with devastating impacts on economies, communities and above all, the lives of people.”

PH is most affected

“The East Asian earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear disaster, as well as the Southeast Asian floods, were major contributors to the staggering $294 billion in regional economic losses, representing 80 percent of global losses due to disasters in 2011,” it said.

Each year, Southeast Asia “suffers damage in excess of $4.4 billion, equivalent to over 0.2 percent of its gross domestic product.”

“Annual expected losses due to disasters have been found to be the highest for the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam in that order while Singapore and Brunei Darussalam have the lowest expected losses in the region,” the report said.

Last year, the Philippines topped the list of countries affected by disasters, according to UNISDR.

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TAGS: 5th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, Calamities, Global Nation, Natural Disasters, Philippines, Poverty, United Nations
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