Philippines is within the Pacific Rim of Fire, meaning it is susceptible to typhoons and earthquakes. The earth naturally moves therefore it’s normal to have them (typhoons and earthquakes) but once it hit the mainland, disasters occur due to unpreparedness and vulnerabilities of the people in facing these kinds of calamities. According to National Geographic, the top reasons why Philippines is a disaster prone area are warm ocean waters, coastal homes, ring of fire, deforestation and underdevelopment.1
There is a pattern which can be observed which I realized since the last three years that I’ve been fully aware of what’s happening with the country. There are 20 typhoons that hit Philippines every year but the most destructive ones arise during the last quarter of the year during the months of September to December. I started reading more about these typhoons and found out that it has been happening frequently since 2006. Here’s the list of the typhoons that strike within the past six years which turned out to be very disastrous: Frank (2008), Ondoy/ Pepeng (2009), Juan (2010), Pedring/Sendong (2011), Pablo (2012) and the most recent Yolanda (2013).
It is obviously happening and I’m wondering why are we still not as resilient as we ought to be? Yes, it strikes to different places each year but still we should have at least established a better approach and system in handling this. It’s a given fact that we’re prone to these things yet we haven’t built that resiliency in this country, in a context where resiliency is defined as the capacity to face a destructive situation without losing many lives and to be able to easily recover from the aftermath.
One of the key is preparedness and mitigation. It was just recently that this technology/knowledge is being introduced and shared with the Filipinos. A stronger coordination between the Local Government Unit from municipal/city level to barangay level, Civil Society Organizations and people themselves is critical to be able to come up with a better community-based disaster risk reduction plan. There are success stories on this and it can be done. (Refer to www.cdp.org.ph for more information on CBDRRM)
We never are sure when these kind of disasters will hit our hometowns again, so it is better to be ready than sorry. It’s better to be one step ahead and invest on this than to sacrifice thousands of lives. The notion that relief and rehabilitation are the only methods on facing such disasters should be reversed into preparedness and risk reduction.
If seen in a different perspective, relief and rehabilitation acts are very heroic. Living in a country with a strong sense of culture, where politics is mixed with almost everything and where people are easily conceived by influence (media as one example). It is a better option to a lot of officials, it’s a great opportunity for more fame and popularity.
We must start thinking ahead, Yolanda might not be the last destructive typhoon that will hit us especially that the country’s environment condition is not getting any better. It all boils down to how we treat Mother Nature, on how abusive we’ve become as humans to these creations. We started this in the first place and we shall recognize and admit that the environment is just returning the favor. Knowing this facts and realities, we shall start doing something now and not later when we’re all unbelievably shaken that we’ve lost our properties or worst lost our loved ones.
What and where are we lacking?
(1) An institution/ agency that will focus and be responsible on the whole disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) process, from preparedness to relief and rehabilitation. Presently, it is distributed among different government agencies which induce a challenge on establishing a better system that will effectively monitor and be accountable for this.
(2) Experts on DRRM who are knowledgeable enough to put up a structure and a system capturing a nationwide scope.
(3) Consciousness on preparedness and mitigation from leaders up to the people.
(4) Lastly, going back to nature. It might sound corny and cheesy since we’re in a highly modernized and technologically advanced era but we really need to go back to basics. At least plant trees, reduce wastes and have that care for the environment.
It might sound ambitious and ideal but I do hope, strongly hope that there will come a time that our country will be resilient amidst disasters and eventually will be known for having that bamboo kind of resiliency amongst other Asian countries and/or the world.
December 9, 2013