How to minimize losses during disasters? 'Work with LGUs'
MANILA, Philippines – In the face of extreme weather events brought by climate change, how can Philippine businesses help build resilient communities and prevent or minimize economic losses?
Work with communities and local government units (LGUs), said Oxfam’s Mindanao program coordinator Dante Dalabajan, and creating climate-smart livelihoods.
“This is how we’ll understand the risk that we’re facing in order for us to develop a holistic approach aimed at anticipating the problem and implementing solutions,” he said during the “Building a #WeatherWiser Nation” conference organized by the WeatherPhilippines Foundation (WPF) on Tuesday, November 25.
Oxfam’s work in Mindanao started with 18 municipalities in 7 provinces. Now, it is working with locals in 8 provinces and 23 municipalities. Some of their projects include hazard mapping exercises in communities, with support from the Australian Government.
Dalabajan said climate change is a legitimate concern for the economy as it disrupts livelihoods, particularly of the country's agriculture workers.
“We’ll be facing very difficult problems in the coming years. By 2050, we’re looking at a 1.6 to 2.4 degree increase in temperature. For rice farming, a 1 degree Celsius increase will cost a 10% drop in productivity.”
According to the World Bank, economic losses from natural disasters have risen from around $50 billion a year in the 1980s to $200 billion a year in the last decade.
Worse, disasters adversely affect those with little to no capacity to recover from losses, Dalabajan added. “People who are lacking in income are those who are having difficulty in adapting to the changes brought by disasters. Resiliency is a function of income.”
But there are also opportunities in climate change.
Zak Yuson, Rappler’s MovePH director who sat in the same panel, stressed how working with LGUs can be an opportunity for businesses.
"Any business that can adopt to working with LGUs will be ripe for taking advantage of this opportunity. Each LGU is required to use 5% of its budget on DRR programs. If you’re a large LGU like Quezon City, that’s a multi-million budget that you could spend on a wide range of programs."
Amor Maclang, the panel moderator and head of marketing strategy firm Geiser Maclang, added: “For those who are willing to risk in this risky proposition, there’s a lot of payoff to be had.”
Liza Silerio, SM Supermalls Envicom head, said bigger companies can be role models for others in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.
The mall chain, for example, has set up around 50 online automated weather stations in different locations with the help of WeatherPhilippines Foundation. They also require their tenants to start crafting business contingency plans (BCPs) for crisis events.
The biggest challenge, however, is the cost of creating BCPs.
“They need to invest money before they can put up a BCP. We’re trying to roll out something that’s very simple so small businesses can adapt,” she said.
Silerio noted that insurance companies need to look into giving incentives to businesses to get disaster risk insurance. (READ: Risk insurance: The next step toward disaster resilience?)
“Right now, insurance penetration is very low in the Philippines. We’re actually the lowest in Asia. I’d like to see insurers create a model where they can give incentives to businesses who create their BCP projects,” Silerio added.
Technology for preparedness, response
Whether you're a small business or a big business, technology and social media can help companies not only build their brand but also protect their clients and employees in times of crisis.
Yuson talked about Project Agos, Rappler’s disaster information platform that uses crowdsourcing to bridge top-down government processes and bottom-up civic engagement.
“We need to work together. We have communities relying on businesses. If you only protect yourself, you won’t be able to help out. We need to train communities to also give information and not just to be recipients [of it],” he said.
Maclang added that the relationship between businesses and the public through social media is a "multi-lane highway." "It's not just bottom-up or top-down, the public and the private sector can interact in many ways to build resiliency."
A challenge to the private sector
During Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), around 90% of the damaged infrastructure was sustained by the business sector.
This, according to Karen Jimeno, spokesperson of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR), shows how the private sector still needs to increase its investment on improving disaster preparedness and resiliency in the community level.
"Building back better encompasses creating typhoon-resilient structures and exploring sustainability in livelihood. This includes forming alternative forms of livelihoods such as small-medium enterprises and micro-industries, and instilling social protection mechanisms," Jimeno said.
The Philippine government has spent P15.13 billion in rehabilitation projects, programs, and activities in Yolanda-hit areas. This is a small amount compared to the P167 billion it plans to spend on completing the comprehensive recovery and rehabilitation plan (CRRP).
The private sector, on the other hand, had spent P12 billion in rehabilitation efforts.
"This gives us an idea as to whether the changes we now see can be attributed to either private and public sectors. The numbers point to both," Jimeno said.
Despite criticisms on the "slow" pace of rehabilitation, the government is doing its best in addressing the recovery concerns, Jimeno said.
"We were talking about assigning value to disaster response, and you can see here how big of an undertaking this is for the government. The CRRP requires a total value of P167 billion to be complete," she said.
Weather Philippines Foundation has deployed 600 automated weather stations (AWS) that complement information from state weather bureau PAGASA. They plan to deploy 750 AWS by the end of 2014.
The foundation trains local government officials on setting up an AWS and interpreting the data it generates. They also conducted a Weather 101 session for media practitioners so they can better understand weather data and forecasts.
“To build a weather wiser nation, we need to work towards more awareness on weather conditions. In a business context, disaster risk reduction and management is a priority agenda in enterprise management,” WPF president Susan Valdez said.
WPF aims to put up 1,000 AWS across the country and currently has an 80% penetration rate in Mindanao. The foundation is also a Project Agos partner. – Rappler.com