Resilient infrastructure

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato - The Philippine Star

As we commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Yolanda super typhoon disaster, Vice President Sara Duterte expressed that government should take a proactive approach in mitigating the impact of natural disasters in the future. Indeed, and I agree with the Vice President when she says that Yolanda was one of the most devastating natural disasters in our history. In her message, the Vice President and Education Secretary also said, among other things, that there is a need to invest in resilient infrastructure in order to ensure sustainable development.

Since Yolanda, local governments and even private institutions have been working to improve disaster management and response strategies in order to reduce the impact of losses in crisis situations. Rightfully so, I should say, as preparedness is important for all stakeholders in our community. While educating people on the matter has become an integral part of our efforts, resilient infrastructure catches my attention the most as this tends to implore more partnerships that include a whole-of-nation approach.

By definition, resilient infrastructure includes vital buildings, public communal facilities, transit systems, telecommunications and power systems that are strategically designed to withstand the impact of a natural disaster like a flood, earthquake or wildfire. It is planned in such a way that it operates to anticipate and eventually adapt to the changing climate.

On the other hand, resilient infrastructure also provides economic opportunities for countries by simply being ready for future risks. The word resilience alone stands for toughness – it is the capacity to withstand and recover quickly and, when we speak about the ability to build back better after any disaster, it is important to remember that what we are protecting includes both the lives of people and their corresponding environment where, in order to achieve resilient infrastructure, teams of different dedicated skills are essential for its success. Such teams are considered to be adept in best practices and promote knowledge sharing.

Resiliency in infrastructure also includes the crucial delivery of services through reliable systems that provide electricity, access to safe drinking water, sanitation facilities and telecommunication network services. Knowing and understanding the steps communities have to take can be challenging but coordination among all government agencies, stakeholders and other individuals are necessary to make the changes needed. By doing so, through a whole-of-nation strategic approach, efforts transform into a strategic advantage where people in their own communities can thrive in their new circumstances.

It has been said that one of the best ways to improve resilience is learning from experience. This indeed is a very good question to ask when we remember Yolanda for if we have learned, we can say that sustainable development is achievable. All people, including systems, must thrive even in the face of adversity and development must continue to improve over time.

Life will always present us with unexpected challenges and when it comes to disasters that have devastating effects on our society, the planning, design and advancement of protective systems for resilient infrastructure has a profound impact on the lives of millions of people around the world. A whole-of-nation approach will always be a convergence of all our efforts – a synergy between our communities and those in authority who are committed to address underdevelopment and be partners in good governance.

Just like a resilient investor, resilient infrastructure is built on the foundation that supports life’s unexpected challenges. It is a powerful indicator of how well our communities can endure a disaster and thrive there after.

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