Australia’s disaster risk reduction work in the Philippines does not start or end with an emergency response like the recent flood relief for Metro Manila.
The Philippines is one of the top ten most disaster-prone countries in the world. Australia helps prepare for disasters before they happen and promptly respond when they occur.
On 9 August, heavy floods inundated the Philippines’ major and political economic hub, Metro Manila. Australia quickly made available $2 million in food and emergency supplies for thousands of people left homeless by the rising waters.
Residents of Metro Manila and its neighbouring provinces are particularly vulnerable to floods and other natural disasters because of complex issues with planning, construction and informal settlement that place poor people in hazard-prone areas and exacerbate the scale of destruction from disasters.
These issues include poor urban and land use planning; weak enforcement of building codes; drainage clogged with solid waste; encroachment of natural waterways by construction; insufficient spill-ways and flood-ways; and informal settlers forced to live in hazard-prone areas because of low access to safer and affordable housing.
The issues in Metro Manila also apply to other parts of the Philippines. It is one of the fastest urbanising countries in the region with 66 per cent of the total population now classified as urban dwellers.
Australia is investing now in a pilot program in Metro Manila to help build community resilience to disasters and climate change and reduce the damage bill of future disasters.
The BRACE program (Building the Resilience and Awareness of Metro Manila Communities to Natural Disaster Impacts) in Taguig City is underway and will:
- Produce state-of-the-art digital elevation maps to show where waters accumulate after heavy rains and model risks from flooding, earthquakes and high wind.
- Train communities in response, rescue and recovery techniques, as part of building their capacity to protect themselves from disasters.
- Help city planners improve the way they develop their land use plans to avoid building in dangerous places or ensure that existing infrastructure can withstand disasters like earthquakes.
- Provide poor communities living in dangerous areas which are unfit for human habitation with safer and affordable housing, including access to employment opportunities and basic amenities, such as roads, water, and electricity.
The BRACE program works with local governments and authorities to deliver these practical measures. Through the program Australia hopes to encourage other local government units around the country, particularly those in Metro Manila, to make similar investments for their communities.
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