Disaster Vulnerability: Snapshot of the Philippines

Give2Asia and the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) have partnered to connect private sector philanthropy to effective community-based programs that mitigate disasters in Asia’s most vulnerable countries. This post comes as the first in a series of six outlining the vulnerability of countries selected for the program. Learn more about the NGO Disaster Preparedness Program or read more about disaster vulnerability in the Philippines.

From 2008 to 2012, the Philippines was one of the top three countries affected by natural disasters. Approximately 74 percent of the country’s population and 80 percent of its land area are vulnerable to natural disasters and the effects of climate change. The country is affected by typhoons and storms, which make up 58 percent of all disasters in the country, flooding (25 percent), as well as landslides. Rising seas levels are a direct threat to approximately 70 percent of the 1,500 municipalities in the Philippines. The country also has a mountainous terrain with a sharp drop to coastal areas, exposing communities in low-lying areas to high risk. Additionally, as the Philippines is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire - the location of 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes - the country experiences numerous high magnitude seismic events.

Disaster mitigation efforts in the Philippines are complicated by social forces such as high poverty, urbanization in coastal regions, and environmental destruction, such as illegal mining and logging. Over 65 percent of the country lives in urban centers, of which 45 percent live in poverty. Urban vulnerability is worsened by poor housing conditions and the low adaptive capability of the urban poor. Outside the cities, farmers and fishermen are most affected by natural disasters. With one-third of the population working in agriculture, natural disasters also threaten food security and major sources of livelihood.

While the Philippines was one of the top five recipients of disaster risk reduction grants from the international community – $834.6 million from 1991 to 2010 – it is estimated that over $500 million was spent on emergency response rather than preparation or resiliency programs. Additionally, according to the World Bank, a lack of coordination and insufficient scope of roles and responsibilities have hindered disaster management across agencies and sectors in the Philippines.

With thousands of separate islands and a political system that focuses on the community - or barangay - as its basic unit, disaster risk reduction in the Philippines is best addressed from the ground up. Due to the wide range of vulnerabilities and local contexts, these efforts are best supported by flexible and adaptable approaches implemented with knowledgeable partners. Opportunities for donors include:

  • Implementing community-based early warning systems
  • Adapting agriculture to climate change
  • Constructing disaster resilient schools and community buildings
  • Training community leaders in disaster management and response
  • Integrating preparedness and resiliency elements into recovery efforts