PH urged to face risks from calamities head on
The economic cost of the dozen or so typhoons that visit the country every year amounted to more than P130 billion, highlighting the urgency of more disaster resiliency projects and programs, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said on Thursday.
The multilateral lender said the Philippines must address such risks from natural calamities head on as tropical storms in the Philippines could reduce local economic activity in the year that they occurred.
ADB estimates showed that natural disasters slashed 0.7-1 percent from the Philippines’ annual gross domestic product (GDP)—an average of P133 billion lost to typhoons a year plus P43.5 billion due to earthquakes.
The Philippines is one of the most hazard-prone in the world. Aside from loss of lives and damage to property and crops, typhoons hamper social and economic development as funds are rechanneled from development projects such as roads and hospitals to finance relief and reconstruction efforts. The report “Disaster Resilience in Asia” released by the Manila-based ADB on Thursday cited Supertyphoon “Yolanda” as among the 10 most devastating disasters in developing Asia from 1990 to 2020, ranking eighth in the list topped by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands across several countries.
In the case of Yolanda, which flattened central Philippines during its onslaught in November 2013, the official number of deaths reached 7,354, the ADB noted.
The ADB said that from 1990 to 2020, the total impact from storms in the Philippines reached at least $20 billion. This is equivalent to nearly P1 trillion at current exchange rates.
Including other natural calamities such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that hit the Philippines due to its location within the Pacific Ring of Fire, the ADB said nearly 75 percent of Filipinos were vulnerable to multiple disasters that could push them into poverty.
While the local effects of natural disasters had been often short-lived, partly because households temporarily evacuated affected areas and return later, the ADB said this relatively rapid restoration of economic livelihoods and activity should not be viewed as a sign of disaster resilience, especially for vulnerable places where disasters occur frequently.
“If nothing further is done except the restoration of activity, returning to these affected areas simply means placing the same populations and assets back in the path of disasters,” the ADB said.It warned that in the coming years, climate change was expected to worsen the intensity and impact of disasters, especially in vulnerable locations.
“For small countries, more extreme events mean more massive damage affecting wider swathes of the population,” the ADB said, citing for instance Cyclone “Pam” in 2015 that slashed the GDP of the South Pacific island country Vanuatu by as much as 64 percent that year.
The ADB said the entire developing Asia accounted for more than a fourth of the $135-billion average yearly damage wrought by natural calamities.
“Developing Asia is the most vulnerable region in the world. Between 2000 and 2020, disasters triggered by natural hazards claimed at least 36,000 lives annually in developing Asia, more than half of fatalities globally. For every five people affected by these disasters worldwide, four were from developing Asia,” it said. INQ
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