UN food branch keeps an eye on Philippines

COTABATO CITY-The United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) maintains a tight watch over the Philippines, which it claimed to have become the third most disaster-prone country among 173 nations noted for possible disasters.

The agency now treats the Philippines a priority area especially its southern calamity-prone components which are still reeling from the effects of recent disasters, according to Praveen Agrawal, WFP country director.

Agrawal said the WFP received additional $5.5 million as disaster aid from the United States. He pointed out that it would be a lot better if disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes and armed violence could be addressed with appropriate preparedness.

He said the private sectors should be involved fully in disaster preparedness trainings, hinting that state efforts alone have not been sufficient.

"With the advent of the rainy season, the Philippine government and its citizenry ought to strengthen disaster preparedness," Agrawal was quoted as saying.

He said the risk from typhoons, numbering about 20 each year, was greater in the countryside.

Last year, up to 2,000 people were reported killed following the landfall made by Typhoon "Pablo" in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the government continued to conduct disaster preparedness and response trainings across various communities in Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon.

He said the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), which he chairs, had been conducting drills preparing Filipinos against typhoons and earthquakes.

Such drills had been intensified following the 5.6-magnitude quake that twice struck Mindanao lately, particularly North Cotabato where P59-million properties were reported damaged. The legislature of the province eventually declared a state of calamity.

Last week's heavy rains, meanwhile, submerged several towns in Maguindanao and North Cotabato in floods, displacing undetermined number of residents.

Floodwater even stalled traffic flow along the portion of Cotabato-Davao highway in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, local relief officials said.

Assistant Secretary Pombaen Karon Kader of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said they were still ascertaining the extent of damages and the number of affected families.