Philippine elections trigger disasters debate

8 April 2016 (Readers 1396)

Disaster risk management has emerged as an issue in the May local and national elections in the Philippines, a country which regularly features in the top five most disaster prone countries in the world. Officials from leading national organisations are calling for politicians to demonstrate greater awareness and knowledge of the issue as the May 9 polling day approaches.
UNISDR Champion, Senator Loren Legarda, said that "Disaster risk management and climate change adaptation should be part of the agenda of our presidential candidates and all other candidates whether running for local or national positions. Our media forums have been discussing these issues but still not as extensively as they should be.
The Senator said that presidential candidates must incorporate in their plans of action the measurable targets under the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
It is a point of view supported by Mr. Alexander Pama who took over as head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) after the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan (aka Yolanda) in November 2013 which claimed over 6,000 lives, affected 25 million people and caused $10 billion in economic losses.
Mr. Pama said: "Voters should include in their criteria in selecting candidates those who they believe are well-informed relative to disaster risk reduction management. It will directly affect their lives and livelihood. In a recent interview, he added: "Disaster risk reduction involves saving lives and protecting lives and livelihood. It is a critical aspect of sustainable development.
This is a neat summary of key aims of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which the Philippines adopted in March 2015 along with all other UN Member States as a global blueprint for reducing disaster risk and disaster losses. Mr. Pama believes that disaster risk management and climate change should be at the forefront of the coming elections.
Last year 3.8 million people were affected by disasters in the Philippines and economic damage was estimated by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) at US$ 1.9 billion. The former Vice Admiral took over as Executive Director of the NDRRMC in May 2014 after a critical period during which many lives were lost in a succession of deadly typhoons, earthquakes and floods.
Under his leadership, the NDRRMC and PAGASA have been praised for keeping the general public risk informed and ensuring early dissemination of warnings and efficient evacuations to minimise casualties in the face of major storms such as Typhoon Hagupit in December 2014 and Typhoon Koppu in October, 2015. Mr. Pama said there should be a system that would reward local executives who performed well in disaster risk reduction and punish those who are remiss in their duties.
Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration weather specialist, Ms. Sharon Arruejo, said it would be good to have a law that would require local officials to attend disaster risk reduction seminars. She lamented that some local officials are not that interested in attending such seminars. "If that happens, life in the Philippines will be better, she told journalists recently. Ms. Arruejo said adequate knowledge of disaster risk management should be a requirement for those seeking electoral posts.
In a statement, climate group Disaster Risk Reduction Network Philippines (DRRNetPhils) is urging voters to select candidates who will boost climate and disaster resilience in the country. "We need lawmakers who can craft and support policies that address the all-too-often neglected rights of elderly people, women, children, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, urban poor, fisherfolk, agricultural laborers, and factory workers before, during, and after disasters because they are the ones disproportionately affected and have the least capacity to recover from disasters, DRRNetPhils stressed.
DRRNetPhils comprises over 300 Philippine Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), communities, practitioners and advocates for Community-Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM).

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