The World Bank has approved a $500-million quick-disbursing loan to support the Philippines amid the Covid-19 crisis.

The funding is part of the World Bank’s “long-standing support” for the country’s policy reforms to enhance resilience and ability to recover from disasters. The loan follows two earlier risk management development policy loans extended in 2012 and 2015.

“The World Bank is committed to supporting efforts to strengthen the Philippines’ capacity to prepare for and respond to natural disasters as well as health and economic shocks like Covid-19,” said Achim Fock, World Bank acting country director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand, in a statement.

He noted that natural disasters and pandemics disproportionately hurt poor families and communities.

The World Bank expects the Philippines to adopt a unified disaster rehabilitation and recovery planning framework along with local government units, and include hazard and risk analysis in physical planning and policy development.

The government is also projected to develop multi-year investment plans for seismic risk reduction, the retrofitting of important government structures and an emergency cash transfer program during shocks.

According to the World Bank, the Philippines is one of the most hazard-prone countries, with about 74 percent of the population vulnerable to natural disasters and 60 percent of the total land area exposed to multiple hazards.

“Across its 7,641 islands, the Philippines is exposed to multiple natural hazards including typhoons, earthquakes, flooding, storm surges, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and landslides,” the statement said.

The Philippines is also bracing for the wider impact of the global outbreak of Covid-19. President Rodrigo Duterte last month declared a three-month state of national emergency.

The World Bank has prepared a $14-billion fast-track package to strengthen the Covid-19 response in developing countries.

Other institutions in the World Bank Group are also beefing up lending amid the pandemic. The International Finance Corp. is providing $8 billion in financing to help private companies and preserve jobs. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and International Development Association are making an initial $6 billion available for a health response.

In addition, the World Bank Group plans to deploy up to $160 billion over 15 months to protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery, the statement said. (Melo M. Acuña)