The State of the Nation in Disasters in Four Points

Zero: the number of words in Noynoy Aquino’s last SONA regarding disaster risk reduction (DRR). As someone who practices DRR, it is not just disappointing, it is enraging. While super typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) has shown that DRR can be the difference between life and death for millions of Filipinos, it is still in the bottom of the Aquino administration’s priorities. Here is the State of the Nation under Aquino from the DRR perspective:

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  1. Still unprepared

The Aquino government is still unprepared for the next major disaster, whether it’s Metro Manila’s ‘The Big One’ earthquake, or another Yolanda-strength typhoon. In the nation’s capital alone, more than half of the 17 cities don’t have a Contingency Plan, the formal document which details what the government should do in the event of an emergency.

The situation is even worse outside of the NCR, where a bigger majority of LGUs do not have a Contingency Plan, or even just a functional Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (BDRRMC).

At the core is the Aquino government’s lack of priority given to DRR. The NDRRMC has not done its mandate to train the LGUs to enable them to do the above-mentioned tasks. Instead, the government continues to focus on forced evacuations, stockpiling of relief goods, and search and rescue, important tasks but those that they have already been doing for a long time.

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  1. Destroyer of the environment

Not only is the Aquino administration badly unprepared for the next major disaster, it is actually contributing to its impact by allowing massive destruction of the environment.

Despite opposition by LGUs against mining, the government tried to circumvent the local mining bans with an Executive Order. Mining contributes to disasters by a variety of ways: from causing floods due to deforestation of watershed areas, to making mountainsides more prone to having a landslide.

  1. Noynoying on climate change

While the Aquino administration claims that it is recognizes the link between worsening disasters and climate change, its actions show the opposite. In international conferences, it has refused to support the position of other Third World countries and civil society that the First World must reduce its air pollution because it is afraid the United States will take offense.

In fact, it even prevented a then-commissioner of its own Climate Change Commission from attending a conference simply because that official did not subscribe to a U.S-friendly view on climate change.

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  1. Clueless on disasters

The Aquino administration has absolutely no idea about the modern view on what causes disasters. It is selective on which root causes it addresses. For example, it loves to blame informal settlers for floods in Metro Manila because they supposedly clog the region’s waterways. However, it allows the logging of trees in the nearby mountains which are the first line of defense against flooding.

As mentioned above, its actions reflect that it does not recognize the role climate change and the environment play in disaster risk reduction. It also ignores the major role poverty plays in worsening the impact of typhoons, floods, and other hazard events. The number of people who do not earn enough even to have just three decent meals a day continues to rise. If they can’t even afford to have enough food, then they certainly don’t have enough money to build strong houses away from danger zones, ensure their health and well-being, repair and replace damages caused by hazards, etc.

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