Socio-economic impact of disasters in Mindanao cited

Speaking to participants to the 1st Mindanao Conference and Consultative Workshop on Disasters and Health Emergencies Management, Baylon also cited the psychological impact of disasters on victims and their contribution to out-migration.

She said disasters are among the reasons why Filipinos seek jobs abroad.

Mindanao is typhoon-free, but it is prone to other forms of disaster, Baylon said.

She said the island is becoming increasingly vulnerable due to poverty and unemployment, lack of land and shelter, lack of food security, poor access to health services, and lack of disaster preparedness.

She noted that the National Disaster Coordinating Council measures the impacts of disasters (NDCC) in terms of economic losses, number of persons displaced or killed, and damage to infrastructures.

She said more disasters hit the Philippines than any country in the world except for China, India, and Iran with the Philippines having the fourth highest number of people killed or injured.

She cited that the numbers of natural disasters increased from 199 in 2001 to 384 in 2005.

She said 344, 378 families were displaced in 2005 mainly by flashfloods.

She also included natural disasters such as earthquakes and flashfloods as threats.

But in Mindanao bombings and kidnappings cause more impact, she added.

Edgar Salanio, Office of the Civil Defense regional training and information officer, said flashfloods pose the biggest threat in Southeastern Mindanao.

Baylon said there is a need to prepare vulnerability mapping, massive information campaign, and the strengthening of disaster coordinating councils.

She said there is a need for multi-sectoral convergence, which could be started from schools and universities using the National Student Training Program (NSTP).

She said Mindanao's business community should also involve in disaster preparedness because disasters affect businesses.

Prof. Buenalyn Teresita Ramos, of the University of the Philippines in Manila, said there is also a need to handle risk communication well. "We need to help people prepare, but we don't also want them to be alarmed," she said.

The University of the Philippines in Mindanao convened the conference, a sequel to a smaller group they gathered last year.