Message on the Launch of the Socioeconomic Resilience Assessment Methodology for the Philippines

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Honorable Undersecretary of the National Economic Development Authority, Ms. Adora Navarro, our partners in development, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Good morning and thank you for being here today for this important discussion on managing risks for resilient development.

Let me begin by congratulating NEDA for their leadership in ensuring that disaster risk reduction and risk management are at the forefront of development planning in the Philippines.

All across the world, natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons, droughts, floods, and volcanic eruptions pose an ever-growing threat to economies and the well-being of millions, especially the poor.

Furthermore, uncertainties brought by climate change mean that unexpected natural disasters will become more intense, more frequent, and more devastating over time.

Despite efforts to reduce people’s exposure to natural hazards, natural risk cannot be cut to zero. Rapid and unplanned urbanization adds another layer of risk making it harder to reverse long-term impacts especially among vulnerable groups.

According to the World Bank’s Unbreakable report, global losses from natural disasters are estimated to be more than 3 billion dollars per year.

It is always the poor that suffer the most. Poor people are more vulnerable to natural disasters – they are more likely to live in hazardous areas, they invest less in reducing their risk, they lose more when they are hit by a disaster; and they receive less support to cope and recover. This has long-term impacts, keeping people trapped in a cycle of poverty.

In 2013, an additional two million Filipinos were plunged into poverty after Typhoon Yolanda caused nearly 600 billion pesos in damages and economic losses and destroyed over a million homes. Because the Philippines is greatly exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards like earthquakes, typhoons, and flooding, this level of loss has a 50 percent chance of happening in any given 25-year period. Catastrophe risk modeling shows that the long-term average losses from natural disasters are estimated at 206 billion pesos per year.

The recent earthquake in Surigao del Norte cost around 720 million pesos in infrastructure damage alone. It destroyed 6,400 houses and 47 schools, in addition to health facilities, water systems and other lifelines.

One thing that the World Bank has learned from its work in developing countries is that providing financial assistance when catastrophes strike is simply not enough. Governments with the help of development partners must also invest ahead of time in long-term risk reduction initiatives.

The Philippines has been making great strides in disaster risk reduction and management in the past decade, and yet challenges still remain. Since the enactment of the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, there was a significant shift from disaster response to disaster risk reduction in government policies and programs, especially in the areas of hazard mapping, early warning systems, and disaster preparedness.

So what will it take to build resilient communities in the Philippines? As natural disasters grow in frequency, intensity, and impact, stronger actions need to be taken to reduce the long-term drivers of risk.

Under the leadership of government, the development community must come together to lead the resiliency agenda in three ways: first, build the physical resilience of infrastructure and public investment; second, strengthen the socio-economic resilience of communities; and third, increase the country’s financial resilience to disasters. This way, human and economic losses are minimized, and people can recover better and faster when a disaster strikes.

The Socioeconomic Resilience Assessment Methodology that NEDA is unveiling today is a useful tool to integrate disaster resilience into development planning. It assesses the benefits of resilience-building interventions in different provinces and helps policymakers identify the most promising policy options to reduce welfare losses from natural disasters.

Risk-informed development planning is at the core of this methodology and the long term impacts can be significant. Some of these interventions include strengthening and retrofitting buildings and infrastructure, early warning systems, improved access to banking, insurance policies, and social protection systems.

For example, a 2013 World Bank study under the leadership of the Department of Education and the Department of Public Works and Highways showed that retrofitting 40 percent of public Metro Manila public school buildings can save 80 percent, or around 19,000 of potential lives lost in a probable M7.2 earthquake on the West Valley Fault.

It is important to also build better from the start, by implementing land use policies that keep people away from hazardous areas. The government’s ongoing initiative to strengthen the National Building Code is a crucial step in the right direction, together with the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction measures in provincial development plans. The informal sector must also be taken into account as poor communities often live in informal infrastructures making them more prone to natural disasters.

Community preparedness programs such as OPLAN Listo of the Department of Interior and Local Government, early warning from the PAGASA and other agencies, as well as strong emergency management systems are also fundamental to immediately protect people before and during a disaster. 

These are clear, practical, and promising solutions to build the country’s socio-economic resilience. It is a huge task but the cost of inaction is simply too high. We must work together to lessen the impact of natural disasters on the poor who are the most vulnerable.

Again, I would like to congratulate NEDA, DOF, and the entire team who worked on this initiative including our team here at the World Bank. We have been a long standing partner of government on this agenda, through providing policy and technical assistance as well as post-disaster financing, as we believe that disaster risk reduction is poverty reduction.

The evidence is compelling that building resilience and reducing disaster risk not only saves lives and protects the poorest, but is also good economics. We look forward to continuing our long-term partnership with the Government to build the socio-economic resilience of all Filipinos. Thank you and good morning.

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