Editorial: Investing in resilience

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014


TEMPERATURES are soaring, there has not been substantial rain so far, the bulk of rain in the farm areas are through seeding. How long will there be clouds dense enough to be seeded, we do not know as the temperature just keeps on increasing, hitting levels that we once only knew as fever pitch on human bodies, not in the environment.

Those who know weather and typhoons also know that hot weather brings stronger typhoons when they come since heat streams serve as typhoon highways.

The past major weather-induced disasters showed how crippling this is to the general economy and to the livelihood of the people. Resilience, thus, becomes more than just being able to hang on to hope and work for the best but to be able to rise up as fast as possible, whether it be the individual, the community, the region, or the country.

This is the topic of Asian Development Bank President Takehiko Nakao in his article in ADB's Development Asia magazine May 2014 issue with the title "Investing in Resilience".

There, he pointed out that the Asia-Pacific faces the challenge to create a different kind of resilience, that of disaster resilience, at the national and regional level.

"By disaster resilience, I mean the capacity of countries, communities, businesses and households not just to absorb shocks, but to anticipate them, thereby ensuring that they don't jeopardize economic growth and development," he wrote.

Since typhoon Ondoy, every disaster that passed took both the people and the government by surprise. Obviously, there is dire lack of resilience at this level.

While a lot has been done since the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 in terms of warning systems and evacuation procedures, very little has been done to "embed resilience into national development".

"The potential for an earthquake and tsunami, for example, to wipe out crucial public and private infrastructure should influence decisions on design and positioning. Jobs programs should include measures to diversify livelihoods so communities are not reliant on one vulnerable industry," he wrote.

But in a country still gasping from the extent of corruption of the rich and powerful, we see no hope yet in truly embedding the systems, procedures, measures, and policies that will truly prepare our country for any major disaster, that of late, has been hitting us every year. We can't even do without corruption in every contract bid for disaster relief and rehabilitation, how can we expect decisions on design and positioning of infrastructure not to have shortcuts just so the rich and powerful and their lowly minions can still have their share?

Indeed, the greatest challenge yet is to create disaster resilience, but the greater challenge in creating that is freeing our government funds and actions from the grasp of the corrupt few.

"Our region faces a future of frequent and severe natural hazards. But if we act quickly, and we act together, there's nothing inevitable about the losses that may accompany them," Nakao wrote. He could very well be talking to us, the people. To act together in making sure that our country becomes disaster resilient, even if it takes our concerted effort to boot each one that needs to be booted out. This we can do if we act together.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 22, 2014.

Opinion

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