The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Monday said that the Philippine government should focus more on the “climate adaptation” in disaster preparedness as the country is becoming the most prone and “exposed” area to typhoons in Asia.
Vinod Thomas, Independent Evaluation director general of the ADB, said that the shift in climates all over the world increased the country’s possibility of being hit by stronger typhoons. He also cited that given Asia’s exposure to natural disasters, other countries including the Philippines focus on relief and recovery instead of enough preparedness for the calamities to come.
“All of the Philippines is now more exposed to highly destructive storms, not just the more northerly areas as was typical in past, as the path of typhoons appears to be shifting southward and cyclones of weaker intensity more frequently bring very intense rains,” Thomas said.
“The Philippines and other countries across the region need to invest more in disaster preparedness—in early warnings systems, better land zoning, and environmental controls. Yet many governments still focus only on relief and recovery,” he added.
He said that with the present Typhoon Yolanda (international codename: Haiyan) destroying hundreds of homes and infrastructures and taking thousands of lives, it proves to show that Filipinos are “vulnerable to extreme storms and floods.”
This result in the government’s failure to determine socio-economic and demographic areas in the Philippines as to where disasters always hit—“flood-prone areas in cities, low-lying coastlines, and uplands at risk from landslides.”
Vinod said that the impact of destruction in Tacloban City manifested the “importance of location and vulnerability” of the poor.
“Because extreme storms and floods are becoming more frequent, populations living in hazardous areas such as flood-prone urban communities and low-lying coastal regions are going to become a more urgent concern for policymakers and the development community,” Thomas said.
Thomas lauded the experience of Cagayan de Oro in the past Typhoon Sendong in 2011 and Typhoon Pablo a year after. He said that the province “spurred better disaster awareness in that city and far fewer lives were lost,” citing disaster preparedness’ importance of each and every city and province in the country.
“Asia is at the sharp end of a global increase in natural disasters, most of them floods and storms or hydro-meteorological, which have risen fourfold in the last decade…In the Philippines, rainfall is rising—significantly so in some areas—and the frequency of meteorological disasters is the highest in the region,” Thomas said.
With infrastructure building and reviving agriculture and manufacturing being the primary agenda of Philippine the government to inclusive growth, Thomas added that countries as well as the Philippines should intensify climate proofing of infrastructures and developing climate resilient crops to decrease destruction brought about by stronger storms and floods because of global climate change affecting most parts in Asia.
“As floods and storms hit the Philippines with increased severity, it’s no longer far-fetched to think that a rain-filled typhoon like Ondoy or Yolanda could hit two or three times in a single rainy season. This calls for carrying out “stress tests” on likely natural hazards, just as stress tests are done on financial and economic crises,” Thomas said. KRISTYN NIKA M. LAZO