MANILA, Philippines - International donors on Wednesday stressed the need for the Philippines to continue investing in programs that would enhance its disaster preparedness capabilities.
Praveen Agrawal, country director of the World Food Programme (WFP) Philippines, said such investments are important since disasters worsen the living conditions of the poor, many of whom are undernourished.
“I think the investment in these areas is mandatory and there is no better investment than in preparation. Response has to be the last resort. We need to be better prepared,” Agrawal said on the sidelines of the National Forum on Disaster Preparedness and Response in Ortigas.
“These are investments in our people, in our children and in ensuring their food security. There is no better investment than that of a child and I think the Philippine government is very much aware of that,” he added.
Agrawal noted that communities in marginal areas are vulnerable to disasters, which happen to be frequent visitors of the Philippines.
“Because of constant typhoons and landslides, these already impoverished lands are further affected and their livelihood, food security and nutrition are even more affected,” he said.
Agrawal said the WFP is working with state agencies and local stakeholders to ensure efficient targeting of beneficiaries of assistance.
“I believe that the investment is taking place. We need to make sure we’re all in this together, that we’re not duplicating but complementing each other,” he said.
“I am very optimistic about the activities being carried out by the government of the Philippines through its various entities.”
Benjamin Hemingway, East Asia and the Pacific regional advisor of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), lauded the Philippines for its efforts to improve its disaster plans.
He, however, stressed that the Philippines can do more to create resilient communities.
“To bring about real change in risk reduction activities, we need to include all aspects of civil society–local and national government, community-based organizations, higher education as well as actual community leaders and participants,” Hemingway said.
The Philippines, Hemingway added, has made significant improvements in terms of disaster response.
“Filipino people are so resilient and are (ready to give) whatever they have. They are the true first responders. The real life savers are the people next door to you,” he said.
Agrawal and Hemingway said their agencies would continue to support efforts by the government to mitigate the effects of disasters.
The Philippines ranked third among global disaster risk hotspots in the 2012 World Risk Report, with more than half of its population exposed to natural hazards.
A United Nations report released recently said disasters seriously threaten the growth prospects of vulnerable countries like the Philippines and could result in heavy losses and debt burdens.