Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Barangay-based resiliency index

A battery of scientific researches concluded that climate change impacts, natural disruption for that matter, are increasing in frequency and scale.

The social, environmental, economic and political consequences of improbable but high impact events to communities—the barangay in particular—are amplified by lack of funding, skills, capacity, technology, crisis management plan and network to mitigate, adapt, respond and bounce back from a piercing climate-propelled disaster.
The lack of concern for safety, current culture and perception of risk, the perceived lack of discipline and sincerity in disaster and emergency management drills magnifies potential vulnerabilities in the barangay. These gaps only elevate the impacts of “plain as the nose on your face” types of disasters such as earthquake, monsoonal flooding, droughts, vector-borne diseases, etc.

Mapping the bigger picture, the number of casualties, the amount of damage and people affected have been piling up decade by decade. An analysis suggests that natural disasters have cost the country around US$1.9 billion or PHP90 billion in economic damages in 2015 and that 3.83 million people were affected by natural hazards.  The direct cost from natural disasters experts’ notes threatens socio-economic growth at the macro and micro levels.

As to impacts to food and the agricultural sector, agricultural scientists predicts that total crop production will be 4% lower by 2050 and that food prices may increase by 20-30%. The International Food Policy Institute concluded that climate change impacts to the agricultural sector alone may cost the Philippine economy PHP26 billion per year through 2050.

Now what should the provincial government do to anticipate, prepare better and mitigate the impacts of abnormal weather patterns to social, economic and political life? We’ve seen the impacts of severe droughts and hunger in Kidapawan that led to riots resulting to the death of some protesting farmers and families? In what ways can the provincial, city and municipal governments of Ilocos Norte mitigate the risks and impacts of a ridiculous Padsan River do a Cagayan De Oro-like flooding? Or as my former students of political science and public administration in their futures studies course at Northwestern University, anticipated a tsunami-like event in Laoag in the year 2030? Or in a black elephant scenario (potentially obvious but frequently ignored) a pandemic disaster? and so forth and so on.

Ilocos Norte like some provinces in the North are exposed to emerging and black swan climate-induced disasters. While in paper Laoag is the least vulnerable city on climate change impacts, extreme climate disasters can just hit you right in the face. Disasters by the word of it are sudden event or natural catastrophes that causes great damage to life and property and yes liberty too.

Local governments must explore, innovate and institutionalize what works and adopt perhaps effective and well-tested indicators like barangay-based disaster resiliency index, plans and approaches to crisis and disaster recovery management. LGUs should invest on people and technology to ensure that we have the rights skills and means to respond from unusual disasters. Crisis and disaster management is a moral and political imperative and the barangay in actual disaster scenario are the first responders and the operations arm of municipal, city and provincial disaster management councils. Thus we need to engage them actively and deeply and gear them with the appropriate and updated knowledge and tools to respond and cope up with disasters quickly. A barangay disaster-based resiliency index is one amongst many approaches that might work to contextualize a micro-geographic approach to risk analysis and assessment.

(Shermon Cruz works as a Climate Reality Leader at Climate Reality Project Philippines, a business continuity management planner and a professional futurist at the Center for Engaged Foresight (CEF), a futures and strategic foresight innovation hub in the Philippines and the Asia Pacific. For more about his works and engagements, check www.engagedforesight.com or you may email him at engageforesight@gmail.com.)

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