More than one fifth of the 100 cities most at risk from natural hazards are located in the Philippines.
In fact, five of the six most at-risk cities globally are in the country: Tuguegarao (2nd) Lucena (3rd), Manila (4th), San Fernando, Pampanga (5th) and Cabanatuan (6th).
Port Vila in Vanuatu is first on the list.
This is according to Verisk Maplecroft, a UK-based risk analysis organization, which studied more than 1,300 cities worldwide and the risks posed on them by hazards like storms and cyclones, wildfires, storm surges, volcanoes and landslides.
An environmental analyst characterized the Philippines’ exposure to natural hazards as extreme, which poses challenges to foreign businesses, supply chains and output despite our robust economic growth.
The effects are far-reaching and long-lasting, added analyst Richard Hewston.
But we know how debilitating the effects of disasters are in a country’s, or a locality’s, long-term prospects. We see this too well and too often. How many local governments, for instance — cities, municipalities, entire provinces — have been brought down to their knees by a natural disaster that wiped out all previous gains and development: Agricultural products, bridges, roads and buildings?
How many families have been forced to start over with nothing after losing their possessions and modest investments, even if they have not been so unfortunate as to lose family members as well?
And how many businesses have folded up because disaster has led them to unprecedented losses, rendering them unable to continue operating as they also recover from their personal devastation?
It has been almost a year and a half since typhoon Yolanda, for claimed the lives of thousands, displaced millions, and laid to waste billions of pesos in the central Philippines. And up to now, rehabilitation has been slow due to limitations posed by inefficiency and disharmony at the top.
Then again, perhaps we really need an outsider to tell us that while other countries, like Japan, are equally vulnerable to natural hazards as we are, what spells the difference is resilience — not resilience in spirit, for we have plenty of that, but resilience in terms of, in Hewston’s words, “institutional and societal capacity to manage, respond and recover from incidents.”
Natural risks in the Philippines are magnified by entrenched corruption and high levels of poverty, he said.
These days, it may be difficult to contemplate extreme scenarios brought about by, for instance, storms. After all, summer — a time for vacation and fun — is beginning. Let us not delude ourselves, however. There is a new level of normal, and it is upon us. Local and national leaders should go beyond their respective fiesta preparations and evaluate whether they have tooled, or retooled themselves enough for the next big test.
It is better to think about all these now, when the sun is out, than scramble when strong rains pound our roofs a few months hence.