How dangerous is the Philippines?

A global study conducted by Global Finance Magazine (GFM) placed the Philippines as the world’s “Most Dangerous Country.” GFM’s explanation why the Philippines is more dangerous than Yemen and 126 other countries is: “The safety score for countries equally weighs each of the three factors: (1) War and Peace, (2) Crime Risk, and (3) Natural Disaster Risk. The safety score aggregates the indices from these three risks, thus presenting a comprehensive view of safety for each country.”

GFM further explained: “This also means that a high level of risk in one factor will have limited effect on the country’s overall ranking. For example, the Philippines is ranked least safe while Yemen is ranked second least safe. This can be attributed to the fact that the Philippines has poor scores in peace, security, and prevalence of natural disasters. Yemen’s terrible score is due to war and famine but the country has a very low risk of natural disaster. Thus, the Philippines ranks lower than Yemen even though Yemen is a war zone.”

GFM said its Safety Index Score (SIS) used data from the World Economic Forum and the Global Institute for Peace to create the list. The SIS study covers 128 countries or over 99.7% of the world’s population and are assessed using 23 indicators. Countries that hardly have any natural disaster — such as Iceland — would be low on the SIS list. On the other hand, countries that have a high risk of natural disasters – such as the Philippines — would be high on the SIS list.

Global Peace Index

But another study conducted by the Global Peace Index (GPI), which is produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP), showed the Philippines as “Dangerous” but not the “Most Dangerous.”

GPI measures “global peace” using three broad themes: (1) The level of safety and security in society, (2) The extent of domestic and international conflict, and (3) The degree of militarization. Unlike the SIS, the GPI doesn’t include “Natural Disaster Risk” as a factor, which made a big difference in the case of the Philippines because of the tropical storms that left in their wake a devastated country. And this may have made a big difference in weighing the “safety” of the Philippines within the SIS and GPI studies.

The following are the highlights of the 2018 GPI list:
1. Countries that are engaged in wars or civil wars were high on the GPI list, which placed Syria as the “Most Dangerous Country” for the third consecutive year.

2. The Philippines is 27th on the GPI list. She is preceded by more dangerous countries Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mexico, Palestine, and Egypt. She is followed by less dangerous countries India, Chad, Burundi, Cameroon, and Azerbaijan.

3. On the other end of the GPI scale, the most peaceful countries were Iceland, New Zealand, Austria, Portugal, Denmark, and Canada. Iceland has been ranked as the world’s “Most Peaceful” country every year since 2008.

Natural Disasters

When the Global Finance Magazine report came out, Filipinos in social media were outraged. Many of them claimed that the study was “fake news.” They said that it was a “hit piece” meant to disparage the Philippines and her leaders.

This writer believes that “War and Peace” and “Crime” can be prevented or controlled by man, while “Natural Disasters” cannot be prevented or controlled by human intervention. Natural disasters are limited to a smaller number of countries mostly in Asia. It is unfair to Asian countries while it gives advantage to countries that don’t have high or no occurrences of natural disasters such as Middle Eastern and African countries. Therefore, “Natural Disaster Risk” shouldn’t be used to measure “safety.”

Take for instance the Pacific Ring of Fire. According to Wikipedia, it is a major area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean, where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. It has 452 volcanoes (more than 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes). All but three of the world’s 25 largest volcanic eruptions of the last 11,700 years occurred at volcanoes in the Pacific Ring of Fire.

A volcanic eruption could cause a huge tidal wave called tsunami. The two tsunamis that occurred in the Aceh region in Indonesia in the past decade caused massive destruction and deaths. Tsunami occurs frequently in Japan. Tsunamis and volcanic eruptions cannot be controlled or prevented.
Another type of natural disaster is tropical storm, which originates from the Pacific Ocean and moves westward towards Eastern Philippines and eventually hits East Asia and Southeast Asia. Tropical storms hit the Philippines at least 20 times a year of which five to eight would wreak havoc to almost all the regions in the country.

To factor Natural Disaster Risk into the Safety Index Score is therefore unfair to countries that are vulnerable to earthquakes, tropical storms, and tsunamis.

If Global Finance Magazine fails to remove “Natural Disaster Risk” from the criteria used in the Safety Index Score, countries around the Pacific Ring of Fire would be at a disadvantage and their Safety Index Score would continually rate them as more dangerous than countries that have lesser Natural Disaster Risk or none at all.

Illegal drugs

In the case of Global Peace Index published by the Institute for Economics & Peace, this writer believes that the factors used in the study were fair and objective. In the case of the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration could improve the safety of the citizens from criminal elements. But as it turned out, extrajudicial killings (EJKs) perpetrated by criminal elements have become the number one threat to the safety of the citizens. While EJKs were intended to reduce the number of drug pushers and users, recent police data showed that they have increased, which makes one wonder if EJK is effective in stopping drug smuggling and trafficking?

The Duterte administration should go after the drug smugglers and traffickers, not their victims. Rid the Philippines of predatory drug traffickers and you’d see a rapid decline in the use of illegal drugs, which is the most dangerous threat to the safety of Filipinos.

This writer therefore recommends that “Illegal Drug Risk” replace “Natural Disaster Risk” in the GFM’s Safety Index Score. We can then say that the Safety Index Score truly reflects a “comprehensive view of safety for each country.” And at that time, we can then ask: How dangerous is the Philippines?