Think tank: Long-term solution required to improve PH post-disaster response

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 22 2020 06:28 PM | Updated as of Jan 22 2020 06:30 PM

Koring, a 57-year-old Cacao farmer rinses ash fall from his plants in Talisay town, Batangas, January 13, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

A research group on Wednesday said the government should be setting aside more money for disaster resilience and rehabilitation, especially since the Philippines is expected to face a number of natural calamities each year.

“They should have plans on reconstruction and rebuilding people’s lives and livelihood because it has become repetitive,” IBON Foundation executive editor Rosario Guzman said in an ambush interview with media.

“A lot of people are unable to recover from such disasters when we already know that the Philippines has crisscrossing earthquake faults, volcanoes and 20 typhoons a year.”

Guzman said the Taal eruption and its resulting evacuation of towns in Batangas and Cavite “will be felt.” “To begin with, the economy is now at a slowdown and we’re reliant on tourism,” she said. “So Taal will have an impact on the expected source of growth.

She said that while local government units and agencies did a good job responding to the eruption, the national government’s P4.1-trillion budget for the year is not up to par because of its insufficient allocation for disasters.

“We don’t have enough budget for disasters,” Guzman said. “A large portion of the budget is for infrastructure and not for productive sectors like agriculture, manufacturing or to address our vulnerability to hazards.”

Guzman, who was among the speakers at a round-table discussion on the effects of the Taal eruption on the economy, said the government should be looking at the long-term situation of farming communities around Taal, especially since they are more affected than the tourism establishments.

Guzman said the affected population will have to deal with not being able to work for a long period of time, including those who are in the tourism industry.

Residents from the high-risk areas within the 14-kilometer radius of the Taal main crater have been ordered to evacuate after the volcano started to act up on January 12. Many of them were forced to leave their fields and livestock behind. Recent reports said those who own horses have been forced to sell them cheap as they struggle to support their families while staying at evacuation centers.

But as volcanic activity seemed to quiet down, tourism businesses have reopened in Tagaytay, contrary to a Department of the Interior and Local Government recommendation.

Guzman said forcing to operate amid an impending eruption is not the solution for most of the affected communities.

“The solution is for the government to have a long-term rehabilitation plan so those affected can have livelihood,” she said.

Guzman explained that the government should have long been preparing for future disasters through promoting resilience of important industries like agriculture and building evacuation centers.

She said that while a quarter of the 2020 budget is meant for infrastructure, most of it is for transportation and to encourage foreign investments.

“It’s not going to benefit our citizens so they can have adaptive capacity to disasters,” she said.

“Infrastructure spending is being used to pump-prime the economy. It’s okay toa ddress economic slowdown but what we need to arrest now is the weakening base of our economy – agriculture and manufacturing,” she added.

In a separate statement, IBON said the Philippine economy was in bad shape, with agriculture growing only by 1.5 percent and manufacturing by 3.7 percent.