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date: 18 September 2018

Natural Hazards Governance in the Philippines

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Natural Hazard Science. Please check back later for the full article.

Located in the Pacific Ring of Fire and the typhoon belt, the Philippines is one of the most hazard-prone countries in the world. The country faces different types of environmental hazards including geophysical disturbances such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, meteorological and hydrological events such as typhoons and floods, and slow onset disasters such as droughts. Together with rapidly increasing population growth and urbanization, incremental weather phenomena have resulted in unprecedented scales of devastation. In the early 21st century alone, the country experienced some of the most destructive and costly disasters in its history, including Typhoon Haiyan (2013), Tyhoon Bopha (2012), and the Bohol earthquake (2013).

Recurrent natural disasters have prompted the Philippine government to develop disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) strategies to better prepare, respond, and recover to be more resilient against natural disasters. Since the early 1940s, the governing structure has undergone several revisions through legal and institutional arrangements. Historical natural disasters that particularly affected national capital regions (NCR) were key in advancing DRRM laws and regulations, as well as restructuring its governing bodies. The current DRRM structure was instituted under Republic Act number 20121 (RA20121) in 2010, and was implemented to shift from responsive to proactive governance by engaging more local governments (LGUs) and community efforts to reduce long-term disaster risk. A national disaster risk reduction and management council (NDRRMC) was then established to develop strategies that manage and reduce risk. Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 was the first test of this revised governance.

Typhoon Haiyan revealed drawbacks of the current council-led governing structure to advancing resilience in several spectrums. Salient topics include bridging emergency response and reconstruction phases, organizational efficiency, as well as financing reconstruction. Together with other issues—such as climate change and optimally sizing governments for improved resilience—being discussed post-2010, some of the most important discourse to date focuses on ways to institute a powerful governing body that enables more efficient DRRM with administrative and financial power. The hope is that by instituting better functioning governance, the country will be able withstand future—and likely more frequent—mega-disasters.