Disasters can push back growth – NEDA

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GOVERNMENT economic managers said on Monday natural disasters can negate the country’s economic gains and even push back development, since most of the country’s 73 provinces are prone to natural calamities.

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Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the Philippines is vulnerable to “geoclimatic shocks,” which stunt growth and slow down efforts to reduce poverty.

At least 30 provinces “are exposed and prone to multiple hazards such as landslides and flooding,” he said.

“In these provinces, the marginally non-poor people can quickly slide into poverty due to shocks or natural disasters,” Balisacan, who also heads the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), said.

In the face of these challenges, Balisacan said the government’s objective should be to make these provinces resilient especially to the impact of natural disasters.

“This involves updating the geohazard maps, land use plans and even their local development plans. Residents also need to be trained on disaster response. Resilient structures that could serve as evacuation centers also need to be constructed in each of these vulnerable LGUs [local government units],” he explained.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) earlier said the Caraga region has the highest percentage of municipalities and barangays where landslides and floods are almost certain to occur.

Out of the region’s 73 cities and municipalities, 62 are prone to floods, and 62 percent to landslides.

Bicol (Region V), Western Visayas (Region VI), Central Visayas (Region VII), and Eastern Visayas (Region VIII) are similarly vulnerable.

Likewise, all towns and cities in Capiz, Surigao del Sur, and Dinagat Islands are likely to be hit by floods, while provinces like Antique and Agusan del Sur have at least one city or municipality that is not threatened by inundation.

The MGB also identified Catanduanes, Antique, Guimaras, Negros Oriental, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Biliran, Leyte, Northern Samar, and Southern Leyte as provinces where more than half of cities and towns are prone to landslides.

“We believe that the key is to directly address the constraints faced by the poor, set against a backdrop of rapid and sustained growth. These constraints operate in a highly diverse, fragmented and hazard prone environment,” Balisacan said.

He said the NEDA categorized the country’s provinces into three: Category 1 are provinces that have very high numbers of the poor, although the incidence of poverty is not very high; Category 2 are those that have a very high proportion of the population who are poor while Category 3 is composed of 30 provinces that are poor and susceptible to natural disasters.

In the first category are Zamboanga del Sur, Cebu, Pangasinan, Negros Occidental, Camarines Sur, Leyte, Iloilo, Sulu, Quezon, and Davao del Sur. On the other hand, Category 2 includes Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Eastern Samar, Apayao, Zamboanga del Norte, Camiguin, Saranggani, North Cotabato, Masbate, and Northern Samar.
Migration is most common in Category 1 provinces, while Category 2 provinces are “being left out of the growth process altogether.”

“These are very sparsely populated and remotely located. Furthermore, these provinces are confronted with weather disturbances and armed conflict that reinforce the state of under-development,” Balisacan said.

“Government strategies in these provinces include provision of basic social services that promote economic and physical mobility partnered with opportunities. Increasing small businesses that are agriculture-based and are more connected to service providers in more developed areas of the region should be promoted. This is a way of creating jobs and ensuring incomes. In areas where there is armed conflict, peace-building efforts should be pursued,” Balisacan said.

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