RP one of unsafest places on Earth—UN group
By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 02:33:00 06/17/2009
GENEVA—Because of its exposure to natural hazards, the Philippines is one of the unsafest places on earth.
Based on a new Mortality Risk Index (MRI) released by the United Nations’ International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) on Monday, the Philippines ranks No. 12 among 200 countries and territories whose populations are most at risk from earthquakes, floods, tropical cyclones and landslides.
The top five unsafe places based on the MRI are Bangladesh, China, Colombia, India, and Indonesia.
These countries are most threatened by four “sudden onset hazards” that have increased in frequency and resulted in more deaths in the last 30 years—the period covered by the study.
The results of the study were released during a press conference at the UN office here in Switzerland presided by Margareta Wahlstrom, UN assistant secretary general and special representative for disaster risk reduction, and Sen. Loren Legarda, the UNISDR regional champion for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation for Asia Pacific.
On the other hand, the top five safest countries and territories are Bahrain, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Isle of Man.
These places have registered “zero” hazards—no earthquakes, floods, cyclones and landslides—from 1977 to 2007.
Emmanuel de Guzman, UNISDR advisor for Asia Pacific, explained the country’s poor ranking in the MRI: “The Philippines is not only situated within the Pacific ring of fire, it is also visited by 20 devastating typhoons every year, resulting in the loss of lives and livelihood, destruction of infrastructure, worsening poverty and further setbacks to economic gains.”
Sen. Legarda said the Philippines was one of the 10 “most vulnerable” island-countries in the world, “but at the same time, one of the richest in terms of biodiversity.”
“So this grim scenario around the world compels governments to incorporate disaster risk reduction strategies into development policies, and create contingency and adaptation plans in the national-local levels,” she said.
The new MRI was made public on the eve of the opening of the Second Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Reduction (DRR) here in Geneva, which aims to assess strategies to reduce disaster losses around the planet.
According to Legarda, the MRI is part of the Global Assessment Report on DRR, by far the “most authoritative study on the prevailing threats to nations which show that disaster risks are increasing, driven by poor urban governance, vulnerable rural livelihood and ecosystems decline.”
She explained that natural hazards can’t be stopped.
“But we can mitigate their impact and prevent disasters,” she said, explaining that “vulnerabilities come in any form—like unsafe schools and hospitals because they were built, not based on risk assessment studies but on the type of infrastructure and poverty level.”
“These natural risks are turbo-charged by climate change, which will magnify the disaster impact on the poor and most vulnerable sectors,” Legarda said.
Climate change, also dubbed as global warming, is caused by a host of factors with the massive concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as the chief culprit, resulting in rising global temperature and sea levels.
With the planet in peril, Legarda Tuesday called for a new development paradigm that would help save the planet and usher in a safer environment amid the worsening effects of global warming.
Legarda, addressing the opening session of the four-day Second Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Reduction (DRR) here, called attention to the role played by humanity’s “insatiable desire” for wealth that has left the environment irreparably destroyed.
The senator called on world leaders gathered at the Centre International de Conférences de Genève to “decisively seize and reduce disaster risks more effectively.”
She blamed the effects of natural hazards, aggravated by unbridled progress around the world, on the “failing economic model” of the west.
Time to make a change
“The time to make that a difference is now. Humanity’s future depends upon us. Let us be the change we seek,” Legarda said.
She also said that today’s state of socioeconomic affairs championed by the United States and the rest of the developed nations should not be “business-as-usual.”
“It is high time for the world to slow down this contemporary development practices,” said the senator, in remarks which could unsettle Western nations that have championed capitalism as the main driver of economic growth since the 18th century.
Legarda lashed at contemporary development practices, describing it as “irresponsible since they have allowed disaster risks to grow, to spread and to prevail until today.”
Storm clouds gathering
In a prerecorded message at the beginning of the program, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon warned that “the storm clouds are gathering” as he called for a concerted action globally to mitigate the effects of a warming temperature.
“Risk reduction is an investment,” he said, pointing out that it was humanity’s defense against climate change.
The UN secretary general was supposed to deliver the keynote address to conclude the opening program, but as he was absent, Legarda was the last one to deliver her speech, which was the most applauded.
Heads of state
The heads of state present were Hans-Rudolf Merz, president of the Swiss Confederation; Anote Tong, president of Kiribati; Raila Odinga, prime minister of Kenya; Bruce Golding, prime minister of Jamaica; and Libertina Amathila, prime minister of Namibia.
They all spoke during the opening of the session along with other African and Asian leaders like Issatou Njie Saidy; vice president of Gambia; Rafael Alburquerque, vice president of Dominican Republic; Liew Vui Keong, deputy prime minister of Malaysia; and Mohammed Abdul Razzague, minister of food security and disaster management of Bangladesh.
The four-day global summit brings together a wide cross-section of the global disaster risk reduction experts and advocates, including heads of state, senior ministers, UN agencies, non-government organizations and scientific and technical experts.
This year’s assembly attended by over 1,500 delegates will examine the increasing disaster risks around the world, which are exacerbated by climate change, with the aim of reducing disaster losses and risks to make the planet safer.