It is a known fact that the Philippines is among the most prone countries in the world to natural disasters. Being part of the “Ring of Fire” volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are quite common. Bein at the edge of the vast Pacific Ocean, it is prone to typhoons.
Recently, parts of the Visayas and Mindanao were ravaged by Typhoon Odette a week before Typhoon Odette. On December 21, President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Proclamation 1267 placing Mimaropa, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, and Caraga under state of calamity for one year effective immediately.
Based on the latest numbers of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), a total of 312 were killed, 659 are injured, a 629,434 people have been displaced, with 352,384 of them taking shelter in evacuation centers.
To date and based on existing reports, total damage from Typhoon Odette was estimated to be around P39.3 billion. This makes Typhoon Odette the third costliest typhoon in the country in terms of damage, just behind Typhoon Yolanda (P95.5 billion) and Typhoon Pablo (P43.2 billion).
The United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) said on December 24 that the country may need to spend P5.35 billion (US$107.2 million) in the next six months to help some 530,000 people in Caraga and Eastern Visayas.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also said the Philippines will need at least $11 million or around P550 million to provide assistance to around 200,000 children affected by typhoon.
History is good enough to tell us the costly effects of natural disasters. The damage is not merely on the damage to infrastructure or agriculture but there is also the cost on the economy itself.
While we can see some improvements done today compared to before – the number of deaths to date is lower compared to Yolanda (6,300) and Pablo (1,901) – the wrath of Odette tells us to do more.
To do more in terms of ensuring communication lines remain stable or strong enough to withstand the effects of the typhoon. This means there is a need for telecommunication companies to strengthen their network to ensure that communication remains or is able to return as soon as possible. We saw how Typhoon Odette resulted in the loss of communication signals. This resulted in the slow dissemination of information. It was only days later that we received information on the effects of the typhoon. Satellite technology would have been ideal but it is currently expensive and not accessible to many.
There may also be a need for areas that are regularly affected by the typhoon to put up sturdier evacuation centers or structures in general, especially essential facilities like hospitals and government centers.
Likewise, better infrastructure may be needed for water and power services. Water districts and the power distributors and the grid operator may want to look into how they can may their network resilient to natural disasters.
While we hope for the fast recovery of the areas ravaged by the typhoon, we also hope that the government and private sector can also learn and adapt from what happened. We have to go beyond resiliency to be able to come out stronger from whatever natural disaster comes at us. There will still be typhoons like Yolanda, Pablo, and Odette that will hit us in the future.