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Legarda to local execs: Establish early disaster warning systems to save lives

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Senator Loren Legarda on Sunday called on national and local officials to implement community-based early warning systems and other disaster risk reduction measures to save lives and mitigate damages from tsunamis and other disasters.

Legarda made the statement on World Tsunami Awareness Day, November 5, noting how early-warning systems could help coastal communities deal with tsunamis and storm surges.

“Tsunamis might not be as frequent as other natural hazards, but they are considered as extremely deadly and costly. It is important that our authorities, especially those who serve our coastal communities, are well versed in disaster risk reduction measures to prepare for and avoid its impacts,” Legarda said.

Legarda said that tsunamis, in the last century, registered an average of 4,600 deaths per disaster, surpassing the mortality rate for any other natural hazard.

She added that, from 1998 to 2017, economic losses from tsunamis registered at $280 billion, compared to the $2.7 billion in economic losses from 1978 to 1997.

Legarda cited three incidents that showed the necessity of such disaster warnings: the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, which caused an estimated 227,000 deaths in 14 countries; the Sulawesi tsunami in September, which claimed over 2,000 lives in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia; and the Moro Gulf tsunami in 1976, which registered 4,381 deaths in the Philippines.

She also reported that, for the Philippines, tsunamis and other disasters have caused damages of at least P388.74 billion between 2011 and 2018, with government spending for rehabilitation and recovery at P559.86 billion, based on figures from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

“Our local authorities must first understand that early warning systems are not reliant on technologies,” Legarda said.

“As what we have learned from the purok system of Camotes Island in Cebu, effective coordination is key in saving all lives within a community even in the face of a typhoon as ruthless as Yolanda,” she said.