Calling all (kaos) and disaster experts

The Philippines needs all the help it can get in managing preparing against natural calamities. With climate change happening, the need will be greater now and in the future.

From BusinessWorld Philippines

January 10, 2012

Calamity preparedness sought

THE GOVERNMENT should intensify preparations against calamities as given the worsening impact of impact of climate change, the top state statistician said yesterday.

Noting that “typhoons had been increasing in number, had become stronger and had become deadlier,” Romulo A. Virola, director-general of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), said that the consequences of weather disturbances are worsening.

In his column “Statistically speaking” posted in the NSCB Web site, Mr. Virola cited as an example tropical storm Sendong (international name: Washi) which caused flash floods in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan and nearby provinces last month.

Data from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) show that Sendong dumped more than a month’s worth of rainfall — 142 millimeters — in 12 hours.

The monthly rainfall average for the area in December is 105.8 millimeters as recorded by the weather bureau in Misamis Oriental from 1977 to 2000.

Mr. Virola suggested that the amount of rainfall on “denuded mountainous area” is dangerous, while hinting at illegal logging as the cause of recent floods in Mindanao.

“We have been experiencing typhoons all our lives, but the change in weather patterns has caught us unprepared to deal with the consequences of our wanton degradation and depletion of our environment and natural resources,” Mr. Virola said.

Using weather bureau data, Mr. Virola said he expects extreme weather conditions to occur in the following years, with increasing rainfall during the wet season and increasing temperature during the dry season.

“Mean temperatures are expected to rise by 0.9oC to 1.1oC in 2020 and by 1.8oC in 2050,” Mr. Virola said.

However, Mr. Virola noted a general downtrend in the amount of rainfall in Mindanao despite fears of occurrence of storms similar to Sendong. He added that the storm was one of the deadliest tropical cyclones to have hit Mindanao since 1947.

More than the winds that are feared during storms, Mr. Virola noted that “it was not the hagupit (gusts) or lakas ng hangin[strong winds] of Sendong that caused much of the destruction. It was the heavy rains that poured plus other factors, some man-made.

Sought for comment, Undersecretary Benito T. Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), said the government is continuously embarking on efforts to mitigate the impact of natural disasters.

“We have about 16 activities that are regularly conducted, including information and education campaigns, capacity building for local government units and identification of areas prone to risks, among others,” he said in an interview.

Mr. Ramos said the government is hoping that increased awareness on changes in weather patterns will reduce the impact of calamities and disasters.

“Sometimes people are just not aware that the weather pattern they know does not apply anymore. That puts them at risk,” Mr. Ramos said.

He used as example the case of Sendong, which caught affected residents of Cagayan de Oro City by surprise since the area is seldom visited by typhoons.

“A lot of people died in Cagayan de Oro because they thought they were safe. But when Sendong made landfall in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, [there was] zero casualty because they expected [the typhoon],” Mr. Ramos said.

The NDRRMC reported 1,257 deaths in the aftermath of Sendong. Damage amounted to P1.38 billion.

Secretary Mary Ann Lucille L. Sering, vice-chairman of the Climate Change Commission, said in a separate interview that changes in weather patterns highlight the need for vulnerability assessments.

“We have seen how extreme weather conditions can economically hurt us; we want to minimize that,” Ms. Sering said.

She said the commission is also looking into how the projected increase in temperature will affect industries and livelihood.

“Of course we must not forget the effect on agriculture,” Ms. Sering said, adding that while there is research on how the production of rice and other crops may be shielded from climate change, other sectors such as fisheries are seldom considered. — KAMP

Article location : preparedness sought&id=44815

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