The World Bank is urging countries in the East Asia Pacific region, including the Philippines, to invest in cost-effective “green” infrastructure and other disaster preparedness measures to build resilience against calamities and mitigate the huge economic losses brought about by disasters.
In a report entitled “Strong, Safe and Resilient—A Strategic Policy Guide for Disaster Risk Management in the East Asia and the Pacific,” the World Bank noted that economic losses from disasters had been increasing at a quickening pace, with costs in the 1990s about 15 times higher than those in the 1950s. Disasters in 2011 were reportedly the costliest on record.
According to the report, economic losses from disasters are expected to further increase given rapid economic growth, urbanization and the growing concentration of people and assets in cities.
“Multibillion-dollar disasters may become more common in the future if new measures will not be implemented—especially since Asia is expected to house 21 of 37 global megacities by 2025,” it said.
The World Bank further warned that developing countries in the region might be exposed to substantial impact on fiscal position, in terms of public expenditure, as governments shoulder an increasing financial responsibility for post-disaster recovery and reconstruction.
Catastrophic disasters occurring once every 200 years are expected to result in losses equivalent to 18 percent or more of total public expenditure, according to the World Bank.
The Philippines is reportedly “highly exposed to disasters, with an estimated 74 percent of the population vulnerable to natural hazards.”
Based on previous reports, the Philippines lost an average of 2 percent of its GDP due to damages caused by tropical storms “Ondoy” and “Sendong,” and Typhoon “Pepeng” within just a three-year period. The monsoon rains in August last year, alone, caused damages worth about P10 billion.
“The urbanization of disasters—with frequent flooding, rising complexity and greater cross-regional impacts—calls for urgent action,” the World Bank said.
“Policy makers can make a significant difference to ensure that progress in development and poverty reduction is not lost by acting now to build resilience. Investing in disaster preparedness—from strengthening hazard forecast services to restoring natural ecosystems—can be surprisingly cost-effective,” it further noted.
Based on the report, the multilateral lender is urging countries in East Asia Pacific to invest in hazard forecasting and hydrometeorological early warning systems. Strengthening legislation and promoting institutional coordination, promoting disaster risk reduction in community-based development programs are also beneficial over the short term.
In the medium- to long-term, striking the right balance between investments in structural and non-structural measures is key, according to the World Bank.
“This includes ‘gray’ concrete and cost-effective ‘green’ infrastructure, such as establishing mangroves, wetland buffers and coastal restoration. Expanding early warning systems based on real-time data and forecasting is also important, as well as developing a comprehensive disaster risk-financing strategy, and social protection systems that can be scaled up in the event of a disaster,” it said in the the report.