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Jesuit environmentalist's low marks for Philippines' storm strategy

"There was no Plan B," he says after Super Typhoon Haiyan

Jesuit environmentalist's low marks for Philippines' storm strategy

A girl looks for clean water near a tanker that was blown ashore by the typhoon. Picture: AFP Photo/Odd Andersen

Mike Maclachlan, Bangkok

November 25, 2013

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Supertyphoon Haiyan presents a challenge to the Philippines and the world, says the Jesuit environmentalist Pedro Walpole of the Manila-based organization Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC). 

Appealing for a radical re-thinking of disaster avoidance, he points out that “there was no Plan B” when the storm, called Yolanda in the Philippines, struck, killing at least 5,000 people and making many thousands homeless.

Preparedness “seemed to have stopped at evacuation,” said an ESSC report released at the weekend.

The areas affected were warned well in advance and “pre-emptive and forced evacuations” took place, says the report by Lambert and Sylvia Miclat of the website Sustainability Science Philippines.

But “local government broke down and so did national response. Responses and actions to assist survivors and manage the soaring number of casualties were very limited.”

The report goes on: “People are asking where is government when they most need one? Disaster preparedness and management in the country, as it is designed now, is hinged on a local government that is functioning.

“There is no Plan B when local government is devastated and gone.”

The global response to the crisis “has been “staggering and heartwarming,” the report says. “But the crux is strengthening our capacities in disaster risk reduction and in designing the adaptation measures in our engineering, housing, zoning, land and water use planning.”

In a message to supporters issued with the report, Walpole said: “We are challenged to muster all our capacities, harness our energies, tap all our creativity and knowledge to … ensure that future events will reduce our exposure and vulnerability to disasters.” 

The “combined competencies and experiences” of the global community can help the Philippines to create “a re-designed landscape of people, homes and livelihoods that integrate the realities of a changed and changing world.”

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