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A barangay in Albay devastated by Typhoon Rolly in 2020. (Photo copyright belongs to NRCP)

Resilience has become a “hot word” recently to describe the ability of the Filipinos to immediately bounce back from hardships and devastating events, move on and rebuild easily. Others tagged “Filipino resiliency” as a romanticized trait that has been used to excuse the government’s shortcomings in handling and preparing for natural hazards.

However, from the perspective of disaster preparedness, resilience can be the people’s strongest trait.

“Being resilient doesn’t mean ignoring the roots of vulnerabilities. It is the goal of resilience to improve disaster mitigation. The term must not be demonized,” says Academician Alfredo Mahar Lagmay, NRCP Member of the NRCP Earth and Space Sciences Division, and Professor at the UP National Institute of Geological Studies, during the Session “Securing the Country from Disasters and Climate Change Impacts” of the Annual Scientific Conference and 88th General Membership Assembly of NRCP last March 10, 2021. His presentation is one of the five parallel sessions aptly chosen by NRCP in support of its conference theme “Pagbangon at Pananaig: National Recovery and Rebuilding.”

With the onslaught of the COVID pandemic and threats of climate change, communities will have to adapt even more to stressful environmental conditions, and investing on resilience is a foremost important measure.

Lagmay pointed that the government should focus on enhancing the resilience of its communities for better disaster planning and hazard management, which would allow reducing the disaster impacts and losses.

Resilience is defined as the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events. Disaster resilience is determined by the degree to which individuals, communities and public and private organizations are capable of organizing themselves to learn from past disasters and reduce their risks to future ones.

“Better anticipation of hazards and disasters could lead to better planning and enhanced resilience,” added Lagmay.

Use of Probabilistic Multi-Hazard Maps to Enhance Resilience

Lagmay talked about probabilistic multi-hazard maps that can be used in environmental hazards planning and management.

In the Philippine Government’s Resolution Adopting a National Climate Risk Management Framework to Address the Intensifying Adverse Impacts of Climate Change, probabilistic multi-hazard maps involve the principle of “considering all possible future scenarios, likelihood, inherent uncertainties, and associated impacts of climate change. The PCRA shall generate the needed localized baseline information on climate risk faced by vulnerable communities and their support systems for potential climate-related hazards.”

Probabilistic multi-hazard map helps us plan in an anticipatory manner.

“For those hazards that can happen in the future that are bigger than what we know or than what we have experienced, use of maps can emphasize the historical worst case. We have to map out different climate change scenarios that can be used as basis for planning. These scenarios, depending on the community and what their vision of what they can be, resources that they have, they select scenarios and address that. It is important to use concepts from science and engineering to design these maps,” Lagmay explained.

Lagmay added that the use of hazard maps in the Philippines using multi-scenarios can help planners and the local government units where to best establish evacuation centers, such as factoring in natural hazards of different scales and magnitudes. He emphasized how using probabilistic maps of multi-scenarios is a much better approach than single-scenario to plan for the community and take appropriate actions.

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A deterministic single-scenario hazard map (left) versus a probabilistic multi-scenario map shown by Dr. Lagmay.

He shared a case in Barangay Andap in Bataan in which more than 500 people died as a result of catastrophic landslides brought by Typhoon Bopha in 2012. The people sought refuge to an evacuation center which was later flooded and razed by debris flow composed of water and big rocks. He said that houses and evacuation centers were built in places where people and the local government thought is safe as they have not seen the place flooded.

“We have to plan our communities in an anticipatory manner using hazards that go beyond the historical records or beyond those what we know and have experienced. Bigger rains, bigger landslides…We have to incorporate those scenarios,” pointed Lagmay.

He added that planning for natural hazard preparedness should also cut across all sectors such as agriculture, coastal, water, health, forestry, biodiversity, environment, energy, education, tourism, infrastructure, settlement, mining, etc.

“Planning must be done with the use of good science and advanced technology. We can use this technology to find places of lower risk. We use multi-hazard maps not to map out hazards, but to find places that are safe to build our communities and our evacuation centers,” he added.

Multi-hazard mapping is now used internationally especially in multi-hazard prone regions. It is proved helpful for sustainable natural resource, environmental management and land use planning.

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