• ‘Yolanda’ brought PH global recognition

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    Regardless of the gloom that Super Typhoon Yolanda brought to many provinces in Eastern Visayas, Palawan, Mindoro and the Bicol region, the world-renowned strongest typhoon to ever hit the country also brought global recognition and attention for the Philippines.

    This was according to Marciano Ragaza, president of Travel Enterprise Corp. and executive director of the upcoming Travel and Tour Expo in February at the SMX Convention, in an interview with the Manila Times on Thursday.

    Ragaza said that since most of the television networks of the world, global publications and online networks have played over and over the destruction caused by the powerful surges that lashed hard on these affected provinces, a vast majority of people in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and even remote areas of Asia and the Americas “became aware and were moved by the suffering that the storm brought to our country.”

    “No other information and sales campaign conducted by the Department of Tourism [DOT] and travel agencies in the past could match the global awareness that Yolanda brought for the Philippines in all parts of the world,” Ragaza said.

    It is for this reason that travel and tour companies are now organizing “Bangon” tourism programs to enlist the support and active cooperation of tourists curious to get to the affected sites to help and in return “our hospitality sector will offer the tourists discounts on their accommodations and even transfers.”

    The DoT is spearheading the “Bangon tours” which is expected to go full steam next year, and for which the Bureau of Immigration’s help will be most valuable.

    Ragaza said that right now, so many tourists of all kinds have been landing in Clark, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and other international airports wanting to lend a hand for Yolanda victims.

    Similarly, a recent Oxfam report, which was published online by Rappler, noted that “many countries have given far more than their ‘fair share’ of their total gross national income.”

    “Not only large bilateral donors such the UK, Australia, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands, but also countries such as Denmark, New Zealand and Luxembourg,” Oxfam said.

    Beyond these “traditional” donors, substantial amounts have also been given by Persian Gulf countries and by multilateral organizations such as the Asian Development Bank and European Commission, as well as by countless private individuals all over the world, it added.

    Private sector role
    From small businesses to multinationals, the private sector has played a significant role, raising funds, providing support services, and delivering aid. Philippines companies have contributed over $45 million in funds, goods and personnel, Oxfam added.

    Foreign businesses have added more funds and contributions in kind, as well as innovative assistance such as—from Danish technology firm Danoffice IT—two surveillance drones with photographic, video and thermal imaging capabilities that could fly over streets blocked by debris.

    The private sector can now build on its positive role by participating in reconstruction efforts that support equitable economic regeneration.

    The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, experiencing an average of 20 typhoons per year. As an Asian Development Bank study showed, the country loses $1.6 billion a year on average because of disasters.

    The Philippines has invested significantly in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation. Central budget allocations for DRR amounted to $624 million in 2011—2 per cent of the national budget and 0.28 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP)—while at least 5 percent of a local authority’s revenue is set aside as its Local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund.

    Studies rank the Philippines highly for its capacity to adapt to climate change and find that the Philippines has a “better than average disaster risk management and adaptive capacity with a good chance of minimizing long-term disaster impacts now and in the future.”

    Investments in reducing disaster risks have made a difference and should be stepped up now with renewed vigor—in the Philippines and around the world. Lessons from the Philippines (including the benefits of effective early warnings and evacuations) should be accompanied by learning from other countries—such as the success of cyclone shelters in Bangladesh.

    But in light of the extraordinary risks the Philippines faces from disasters—the third most at risk country in the world—it needs extraordinary levels of DRR and climate change investment for decades to come. Donor financing for DRR in the Philippines makes it the fourth largest recipient of such aid in the world.

    But over the past 20 years, that has still only been $10.78 per capita (and in per capita terms 32nd, not 4th, in the world).

    In short, international donors have given the Philippines too little to support its DRR—in the light of its risks and the numbers of people potentially exposed to them. International investment in DRR in the Philippines should be substantially increased—and with a greater emphasis on tackling the poverty that makes many people more vulnerable.

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