Philippines has most number of disaster displacements in Southeast Asia

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines had the highest number of disaster-related displacements or forced movements in Southeast Asia from 2010 to 2021, according to a report of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

In the report “Disaster Displacement in Asia and the Pacific: A Business Case for Investment in Prevention and Solutions” released yesterday, the multilateral lender and IDMC said the Philippines had 49.31 million displacements reported during the period, mostly due to  storms.

This was the highest among the countries in Southeast Asia as the report showed Indonesia had 6.59 million disaster displacements, Vietnam with 4.79 million, Myanmar  3.75 million,  Thailand  2.92 million,  Malaysia  801,000, Cambodia 761,000, Lao People’s Democratic Republic  207,000, and Brunei Darussalam  150.

“The Philippines has been the country most affected, as it experiences between five and 10 destructive tropical cyclones every year, making it one of the countries most at risk of extreme weather events in the Asia and Pacific region and globally,” the ADB and IDMC said.

According to the report, typhoon Haiyan in 2013 was one of the most severe typhoons to hit the country, as it led to 4.1 million displacements, more than one-fifth of the 19.7 million disaster displacements reported in the Asia and Pacific region that year.

The Philippines also recorded displacements due to volcanic eruptions.

Within Asia and the Pacific, the report found Southeast Asia and East Asia as having the biggest number of disaster displacements from 2010 to 2021.

“Countries in Southeast Asia are particularly affected by disasters, a trend that is also expected to continue well into the future,” the ADB and IDMC said, citing the impacts of climate change, increasing urbanization and the damming of major rivers.

For countries affected by conflict and violence including Myanmar and the Philippines, the ADB and IDMC said the impact on displacement could be made worse.

“Longer-term, sustainable urbanization and development will be key to reducing displacement overall risk,” the ADB and IDMC said.

For the Asia and Pacific region, the report said there were around  225.3 million displacements during 2010 to 2021, with large-scale storms and floods, droughts, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions displacing people.

“Disaster displacement is already eroding the development gains in Asia and the Pacific and threatens the long-term prosperity of the region,” ADB’s chief of Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management Thematic Group Noelle O’Brien said.

“We need to strengthen policies and action on disaster risk management to ensure the region doesn’t regress on its development goals,” O’Brien said.

The ADB and IDMC said that while disaster displacement is a significant challenge for Asia and the Pacific, it has unique opportunities to address such, citing the role urban planning and municipal administrations and services can play in preventive action and improved response.

“Rather than relying on humanitarian response delivered by an already over-stretched international system and limited national capacities, pre-emptive action through community resilience-building, investing in disaster risk reduction, early warning systems, and climate action will be the only viable strategies,” the report said.

The ADB and IDMC also said displacement from disasters must be factored in long-term development planning processes. This will involve measuring and monitoring displacement and displacement risk, using the data for planning and response, and tracking progress.

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