Disasters and 20 million Filipinos

Image captured from
World Risk Report 2012.
Environmental degradation puts 20 million Filipinos at risk, report says

THE Philippines is the third country whose people are most at-risk from disasters, said a report released for the UN's International Day for Disaster Reduction, October 13.

“Among the 15 countries with the highest risk worldwide, eight happen to be island states – including Vanuatu, Tonga and the Philippines at positions 1 to 3,” said the World Risk Report 2012.

The report, which was crafted by the German Alliance for Development Works (Alliance), United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) and The Nature Conservancy, added: “Owing to their proximity to the sea, island states are particularly exposed to the natural hazards of cyclones, flooding and sea level rise.”

The report, which evaluated 173 countries, also placed the Philippines among the top three in terms of exposure.

According to the report, Vanuatu is the country with the largest disaster risk worldwide, given a score of 36.31 percent. The country is followed by Tonga (28.62%), the Philippines (27.98%), Guatemala (20.75%) and Bangladesh (20.22%).

“The WorldRiskIndex 2012 [the product of exposure and vulnerability] shows that these countries bear the disastrous combination of extreme exposure and high vulnerability.”

The Philippines was given an exposure rate of 52.46 percent and vulnerability of 53.35 percent, based on 28 indicators.

“India ranks second in the countries with the greatest number of at-risk people who may receive risk reduction benefits from reefs (people living below 10-meter elevation and within 50 kilometers of coral reefs). The top countries are Indonesia and India (> 35 M people each); followed by the Philippines (>20M); China (> 15 M); Brazil, Vietnam and the USA (all > 7M),” a statement on the report said.

The statement added that “environmental degradation is a significant factor that reduces the capacity of [these] societies to deal with” risks of natural disasters.

“The record for the decade 2002 to 2011 is alarming: 4,130 disasters, more than a million deaths and an economic loss of at least US$1.195 trillion.”

A statement in September by underwriter Swiss Re noted that the “cost of floods has more than doubled in the last 10 years and now rivals earthquake losses.”

The firm estimates that 500 million people are affected by flooding every year and “the increase in flood claims has been significant.”

Swiss Re said that in the 1970's, the annual claims were US$1-2 billion, whereas 2011's insured flood losses amounted to US$15 billion.”

“Recent flood events in Thailand, Australia and the Philippines show that floods now rival earthquakes and hurricanes in terms of economic losses.”

Nonetheless, the World Risk Report said the Philippines and Thailand scored positive in terms of adaptive capacities in terms of natural disasters.

“Thanks to their favorable scoring in the categories “education and research”, “environmental status and ecosystems protection” and “gender parity”, the Philippines in particular, which are ranked as high regarding susceptibility and their lack of coping capacities, have attained a quite good result.”

The report's WorldRiskIndex, developed by UNU-EHS in cooperation with the Alliance, determines the risk of becoming the victim of a disaster as a result of natural hazards for 173 countries. The Pacific Island states of Vanuatu and Tonga have the highest disaster risk. Malta and Qatar face the lowest risk. India ranks 73rd and is therefore midway in all risk categories.

"This report illustrates the powerful role that nature can play in reducing risks to people and property from coastal hazards like storms, erosion and floods. Coral reefs, oyster reefs and mangroves offer flexible, cost-effective, and sustainable first lines of defense," a statement quoted The Nature Conservancy lead marine scientist Michael Beck as saying. (30)

Original story submitted to BusinessMirror Oct 14, 2012
Written by: Dennis D. Estopace, Reporter
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