Typhoons and related calamities that hit the country each year naturally take some toll on the economy and cause serious damage to agriculture and infrastructure.
The economic cost of 22 tropical cyclones, flashfloods, and intertropical convergence zones in 2017 amounted to P6.446 billion, according to the Office of Civil Defense-National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (OCD-NDRRMC).
The damage caused by 22 typhoons last year—from “Auring” to “Vinta”—reached P6.342 billion. Flashfloods and ITCZs damaged an estimated P104.229 million.
The OCD-NDRRMC data did not include the cost of damage to private properties, commercial activities, and foregone revenues from the hundreds of people who died as a result of calamities.
NDRRMC spokesperson Edgar Posadas noted that an average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines each year, of which five to seven are destructive.
0.8% of GDP
According to the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), the annual cost of natural disasters to the Philippines is equivalent to 0.8 percent of gross domestic product.
“Natural disasters/calamities affect mostly production of goods and investments, thereby affecting balance of payments, employment, exchange rate, and inflation—all of which are reflected in the real GDP of the Philippines,” independent economic consultant John Paolo Rivera told GMA News Online.
“The effect on GDP depends on the severity of the calamity, but it’s not that much because other sectors unaffected by calamities can make up for it. Of course, it’s not the whole country that gets affected,” Rivera said.
Typhoons and flooding also cost the government billions in yearly appropriations.
In 2017, the government allotted P30.7 billion to the national disaster risk reduction and management fund or calamity fund. The allotment for 2018 totaled P19 billion.
Apart from the national calamity fund, local government units and other government agencies have their respective calamity and contingent funds to tap should the need arise.
While the country cannot avoid the typhoons and related calamities, Rivera said the government can minimize the cost and the damage through preparation and coordination.
“We need to always have contingency plans and foresight to foresee the damages. Preparation is the key and coordination among agencies is critical to mitigate the damages,” he said.
There is also a need for Filipinos to espouse a shift in mindset regarding disaster risk reduction.
“I think the mindset needs to change first here in the Philippines even before we can actually say that we are ready for anything,” said Ruben Carlo Asuncion, chief economist at Union Bank of the Philippines.
“In Japan, a community that is prone to tsunami is all prepared for any eventuality—from emergency situation, post-evacuation, and rehabilitation,” Asuncion emphasized. —VDS, GMA News