International work helps build safer communities in the Philippines

23 January 2014

Image of a city showing computer modelling of potential flooded areas.

Screen grab from video explaining the
Greater Metro Manila Area Risk
Assessment project showing
visualisation of flood modelling for
the Pasig-Marikina River Basin.

Scientists from Geoscience Australia recently completed a major project working together with technical agencies and local authorities in the Greater Metropolitan Manila Area in the Philippines, to develop Philippine capacity for assessing the impacts of natural hazards. This work will help to create safer communities in this highly disaster prone developing nation.

Geoscience Australia and Government of Philippines recently celebrated the culmination of the Enhancing Risk Analysis Capacities for Flood, Tropical Cyclone Severe Wind and Earthquake for Greater Metro Manila Area project, which was a component of the Metro Manila Post-Ketsana Recovery and Reconstruction Program funded by Australian Aid (formerly AusAID).

This capacity building program involved staff from Geoscience Australia working with local counterparts in Government of Philippines agencies to develop assessments of how floods, severe winds from tropical cyclones and earthquakes will impact on Manila.

Section Leader Dr Andrew Jones said the work was a significant achievement as it was the most comprehensive risk assessment ever completed for the Greater Manila area.

Dr Jones said the computer modelling combined hazard modelling together with an analysis of the exposure and vulnerability of the population and building stock to estimate the potential damage to buildings, human casualties and economic losses. Areas of greater risk can then be targeted to assist communities in preparing for likely future events.

The project started in late 2010 in response to the impacts of severe flooding experienced in Manila in 2009 following Typhoon Ketsana (known locally as Ondoy). The first phase of the project was the acquisition of high resolution LIDAR data and aerial imagery, which provided a high-accuracy, 3-dimensional data of local topography and urban landscape, including the heights and shapes of vegetation and buildings.

The in country launch of the outputs from the project was a spectacular success, with the Philippines Government acknowledging the meaningful difference the products will make to future land-use planning and other risk reduction efforts in Manila, and indicating a great appreciation for the work of the Australian Government.

The recent disasters represented by the M7.2 earthquake in Bohol Province on 15 October 2013 and Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) across the Leyte and Samar provinces on 8 November 2013 have highlighted the value of products such as those developed through this project.

A communication process is now underway with local governments to discuss how they might utilise the results of the study, now available via the Philippines Office of Civil Defense and the Philippine Geoportal External site link.

A short video has been produced which explains the work undertaken during the project, highlighting the vast collaborative effort and outcomes achieved.