Davao Oriental one of finalists in search for best in disaster management

September 21, 2010 12:10 pm 

By Ferdinand O. Zuasola

MATI, Davao Oriental, Sept. 20 –The provincial government of Davao Oriental is now among the top three finalists in this year's nationwide search for excellence in disaster risk management and humanitarian assistance being conducted by the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC).

Jesusa Timbang, action officer of the Davao Oriental Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council, said for two consecutive years, the province is being picked by the NDCC as among the best prepared local government units in the country in terms of disaster management.

Last year, Davao Oriental was placed third in NDCC's Gawad Kalasag award. The provinces of Albay and Antique were declared first and second respectively in last year's nationwide search for excellence in disaster risk management and humanitarian assistance.

The NDCC has officially informed Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon that her province was once again being adjudged as among the top three finalists in this year's Gawad Kalasag award, whose awarding ceremonies will be held in Malacanang Palace and which will be graced by President Benigno S. Aquino III.

The two other provinces who made it to the top three in this year's Gawad Kalasag award are Bulacan and Albay.

In July this year, Davao Oriental was awarded as the best prepared local government unit in Mindanao in disaster management. The national government has declared the month of July as the National Disaster Consciousness Month with this year's theme: "Pag Alerto, Malayo sa Peligro."

"The provincial government is seriously looking into adopting the National Economic Development Authority's concept to mainstream the integrated concerns of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into local decision making and planning processes by enhancing local awareness and understanding of climate change. Its aggravating effects on existing natural hazards, and developing tools to enable the formulation of physical framework, land use and development plans that address existing hazards while considering climate change risks," Malanyaon said.

"The occurrence of disasters is always a cause of great concern for every LGU whether they are natural or man-made because they always result in sufferings and deaths. The province of Davao Oriental was extremely blessed in 2009 as it was spared from much of the devastation that has affected other provinces throughout the country. Aside from small localized floods and landslides caused by continuous heavy rains that affected some households in the province's east coast towns, its impact vastly pales in comparison to what was experienced by the victims of typhoons Ondoy and Peping," she also said.

The provincial disaster coordinating council of Davao Oriental has been up to the task thus far. Its over-all efforts through the years, most especially in 2008, specifically in formulating disaster mitigation measures and constantly improving the disaster preparedness and response capability of its volunteer personnel, as well as increasing the level of awareness of various stakeholders and communities, has earned much-deserved recognition in the national level.

"It is not far-fetched to think that there will come a time in the future that we will be placed in the same predicament as those typhoon victims so we have to be doubly prepared for such eventuality. We know now, with great satisfaction, that our initiatives in this special concern are paying vital dividends in terms of rising motivation and efficiency of the PDCC. However, we cannot rest on our laurels as much more can be done, and much more must be achieved to meet the challenges that accompany these complex weather phenomena. If at all, our past efforts should serve to fuel us in empowering and encouraging greater public participation in disaster management processes particularly by fostering advocacy on environmental preservation and protection, among many others," the governor said.

Meanwhile, Timbang said the provincial disaster coordinating council of the province has put great emphasis on the mitigation programs. It has created hazard maps, vulnerability maps, capacity and resource maps, risk maps and all other related maps which are being regularly updated as these will give data on hazards present in a particular municipality or barangays.

"Our basic mission is to prevent loss of lives and damage to properties of members in the community affected by terroristic activities, natural calamities, and other man-made disaster of similar nature. This can be made effective through fast delivery of services, supplies, materials and equipment for evacuation, medical relief and other basic needs," she said.

Timbang said the PDCC utilized and maximized all available resources both of the government and private sectors. Included in their mandate is to develop self-reliance among the lower disaster coordinating councils through the provision of technical assistance particularly in the utilization of five percent calamity funds. Its strategies and approaches involve close coordination with all local government units and provincial offices and government line agencies; linkage and network-building among rescue volunteers, medical rescue groups and other rescue organizations; and to access funds and other in-kind donations needed for relief and rehabilitation, disaster preparedness training and skills.

She said while the province was typhoon-free, it regularly experience flash floods and landslides that devastate agricultural products, infrastructures and properties that even resulted in the loss of lives.

However, Malanyaon would regularly send reminders to her constituents, especially those living in potentially hazardous villages "to always engage in disaster preparation, mitigation and response management."

She said every local government unit in the province and every family here must always discuss ways and means on how to survive catastrophic disasters by establishing standard operating procedures with defined action plan, communication, coordination and emergency provisions like water, medicine, food and equipment like battery-operated multi-band radio, flashlights, outdoor gear, small tools and first aid kits.

She said they foresee the catastrophic disaster events such as high-magnitude earthquakes, tsunamis, super typhoons, floods, volcanic eruptions as all too real in the dangerously changing environment.

Malanyaon said the prospect for survival and resiliency to disasters is first initiated at home.

She also emphasized the need for an integrated national-regional-community disaster management approach with a strong public and private sector collaboration.

Many in the private sector in the country would regularly undertake the necessary preparations to avoid the pitfalls of ineffective government disaster management and response, citing the Philippine government's "alarming" track record in handling catastrophic disasters such as the Ondoy flood in 2009, Pinatubo eruption in 1991, the North Luzon Earthquake in 1990, and the Moro Gulf Tsunami in 1976.

The Philippines is an island archipelago situated in the western side of the Pacific Ocean near the equator. The country lies along the hazardous volcanic chain dubbed as the Pacific Ring of Fire and directly on the path of typhoons. There are 37 volcanoes within the Philippines' national border, of which 18 are active.

According to environment advocate, Manny Sd Lopez, one of those who tirelessly call on the national government to constantly lead in disaster preparation, the fringes of Laguna de Bay near Metro Manila and picturesque Taal Lake are "actually Calderas or mouths of volcanoes that erupted 26,000 years ago." He said the "nation's economic and political circumstances, its large population, weak infrastructure and poor building standards, makes it highly vulnerable to natural disasters."

"Indeed, given the inherent weaknesses of the country, the impact of a major disaster will prove to be catastrophic. While we may not be able to control natural disasters, we can certainly develop the right attitude as a people, plan and organize ourselves to better mitigate and respond to disasters," Lopez said.

He said the country can draw important lessons from Haiti and Chile earthquake experiences where Chile's effective disaster mitigation and response management program made a huge difference in minimizing the number of casualties.

He said Chile's 7.4 magnitude earthquake killed less than 1,000 people while Haiti's 6.8 magnitude earthquakes killed over 250,000 people.

"Chilean children by training dashed out of their homes to open areas as the quake shook the ground, while Haiti's children huddled in fear and later cried underneath the rubble awaiting foreign help, apparently not knowing what to do like their government," Lopez said (PNA) RMA/Ferdinand O. Zuasola/lvp

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