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RP world’s fourth most disaster-prone country

October 15, 2006

By Center for People Empowerment in Governance
Inquirer, Oct. 15, 2006

THE devastation wrought by the two recent major disasters should no longer be seen as a problem best left to government’s disaster coordinating officials alone. Serious flaws in government’s economic development priorities and faulty public governance have led to the increase in the vulnerability of people and communities to calamities and, worse, in bigger number of lives lost and hopes for a better life shattered.

Has the government been jolted out of complacency or gone beyond merely declaring affected provinces as “calamity areas” by undertaking bold policy reform? Is there really nothing that can be done to protect people’s lives and their livelihood from future disasters?

In just a month, the Philippines was struck by two major calamities: The Guimaras oil slick, which hit several western Visayas coastal provinces in August, and Typhoon “Milenyo,” which devastated Luzon provinces including Metro Manila on Sept. 28. Being the world’s fourth most disaster-prone country (after China, India and Iran), such disasters whether natural as in the case of Typhoon Milenyo, or man-made as in the Guimaras tragedy, are often taken as nothing new.

Some alarming trends cry for attention, however. The impact of disasters such as typhoons, floods, monsoon rains, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides has worsened in recent years. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies report that some 5.9 million Filipinos were killed or injured as a result of natural or man-made calamities in 1992-2001. That’s already about 5 percent of the country’s current population.

The rising toll can also be attributed to the increase in the reported number of disaster incidents in the country: From 199 in 2001, it leaped to 313 in 2002 and 384 in 2005. The nongovernment Citizens’ Disaster Response Center (CDRC) reports that the number of people affected by disasters in 2005 was 528,151 families or 2.6 million people. In January to September this year alone, the total had reached 584,607 families or 3 million people.

(For the full story, click Disaster-prone.)

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