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After Tisoy, the people of Bicol will stand tall again

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FEATURE

By AMBASSADOR STEVE ROBINSON

AO, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines,

and TITON MITRA , UNDP Philippines Resident Representative

Ambassador Steve Robins

Ambassador Steve Robinson

Let’s take a moment to think of the thousands of families still suffering after Typhoon Tisoy battered the Bicol region just over a week ago.

Tisoy swept away their homes and has caused millions of pesos damage to agriculture. It will take time for the survivors to return to work and rebuild their communities.

That more people did not lose their lives is a silver lining that owes much to the preparations of Philippine national and local governments.

As readers know, the Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone and climate-vulnerable countries in the world.

From 2006 to 2016, of the 99 typhoons recorded, 57 were super typhoons. These claimed more than 12,000 lives and cost the economy around PHP2.8 trillion.

Yet natural hazards do not necessarily lead to disasters. The Philippines today is much more risk aware. The loss of life from extreme weather events has dropped sharply thanks to greater preparedness and science-based adaptation.

Since 2006, Australia and the United Nations Development Program has helped the Philippines to better prepare against natural hazards.

For example, we have deployed information technology to reinforce national and local defences when nature strikes.

Now, 72 provinces around the country can identify hazard and climate risks and make plans by drawing on a database that uses geo-tagged household data, economic and infrastructure assets, hazard maps and other data to assess vulnerability.

In the coastal municipalities of Abuyog and Tolosa in Leyte, this information helped the mayors press for the transfer of settlements to safer areas.

In Tacloban City, the database, known as “ClimEx.Db”, supports better disaster preparedness and management and is helping improve delivery of basic social services through civil registration and tax mapping.

Other countries now stand to benefit from the good work that is underway in the Philippines.  At the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which will be co-hosted by Australia and the United Nations in June 2020, the Philippines will have the opportunity to inform regional efforts to minimise social, environmental, and economic losses driven by natural hazards.

Also, at the COP25 conference happening this week in Madrid, Spain, the Philippines will be able to urge countries to support the adaptation efforts of the most vulnerable nations.

Unfortunately, extreme weather events such as Typhoon Tisoy will remain inescapable for the foreseeable future.

Yet the Philippines’ preparedness and pre-emptive evacuation shows how preparedness should be the norm, not the exception.

We should draw hope that while those people and communities were battered by Tisoy they are getting back up and will stand tall once again.

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