• Disasters can push back PH growth

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

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    In a press briefing in Malacanang, Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the Philippines suffers from “geoclimatic shocks”, a problem that stunts growth and slows down efforts to bring down the poverty level.

    Balisacan said there are at least 30 provinces “that are exposed and prone to multiple hazards such as landslides and flooding.”

    “In these provinces, the marginally non-poor people can quickly slide into poverty due to shocks or natural disasters,” the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) chief stressed.

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

    “These involve 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.

    Previously, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) identified the Caraga region as having 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 or 85percent are prone to floods, while 62 percent are highly vulnerable to landslides.

    MGB also identified Bicol (Region V), Western Visayas (Region VI), Central Visayas (Region VII), and Eastern Visayas (Region VIII) as similarly prone to such disasters.

    Likewise, all towns and cities in Capiz, Surigao del Sur, and Dinagat Islands are likely to be frequented 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 the 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 pointed out.

    He said the NEDA categorized the country’s provinces into three. Category 1 being 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; and Category 3, composed of 30 provinces are those that are poor and are susceptible to natural disasters.

    The first category includes 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.

    “Some cities or provinces have been experiencing economic growth, but the poorest families are being left behind perhaps because the growing sectors do not require the goods or services that the poor can provide. Worse, migrants are being attracted into these cities or provinces, but they too, are unable to participate in the growth process,” Balisacan further stressed.

    Migration is most common in Category 1 provinces while for those under Category 2, these are provinces that 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,” the NEDA chief added.

    “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 pointed out.

    JOEL M. SY EGCO

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