Disaster resilience is a united effort

Published July 7, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Do many people still have a “go bag” survival kit tucked near the front door? Years ago, a government information campaign successfully convinced many to have a “go bag” just in case one needed to evacuate one’s house at a moment’s notice due to a natural disaster.

That was after Typhoon Ondoy in 2009 when thousands of people in Metro Manila evacuated their homes due to sudden rise of floodwaters that covered many villages.

The low awareness of the importance of a “go bag” to many families today suggests a weak link in a disaster resilience program, which includes preparedness. The government can only achieve its goal of creating safer communities through a united effort, starting with citizen cooperation, preparedness and planning. The theme of this year’s observance of July as National Disaster Resilience Month (NDRM) highlights the importance of a united effort – “Sambayanang Pilipino, nagkakaisa tungo sa katatagan at maunlad na kinabukasan” which seeks to advocate unity toward resilience and sustainable development.
Leading the observance is the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), through the Office of Civil Defense (OCD).

“The people must unite and work hand in hand toward the common goal of achieving disaster resilience and fostering development,” a statement from the NDRRMC said.

Among the activities to inform people of the four areas of disaster resilience is a webinar series dubbed “Resilience Hours” conducted every Thursday this month. Topics cover disaster prevention and mitigation; preparedness; response; and rehabilitation and recovery. There is also a contest on the best “resilience video” where one category will feature “What’s in your go bag?”

Government efforts to educate the public on the importance of disaster resilience have been many. A simultaneous earthquake drill is held once every quarter of the year for many years, involving schools, government offices, private corporations and other institutions.

Agencies under NDRRMC conduct regular forums on various issues related to disaster resilience.
A Department of Disaster Resilience has been proposed through a bill to create a separate department that would have “a clear unity of command and primary responsibility in responding to disasters and natural calamities.”

Before a tropical cyclone hits us, or before a volcano erupts, government authorities make the rounds of evacuating people living in danger areas.

We live in a country located where natural calamities happen more often than in the rest of the world. Being situated in the “Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is vulnerable to frequent earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and an average of 20 tropical cyclones annually, eight or nine of which make landfall.”
To keep citizens aware of the significance of disaster resilience, Executive Order No. 29 signed by former president Rodrigo Duterte on June 28, 2017, mandates the observance of National Disaster Resilience Month through activities related to the building of disaster resilience.

National resilience is the result of the “ability of local communities – with support from government and the private sector – to plan and prepare for, absorb, respond to, and recover from disasters and adapt to new conditions.”

That needs the cooperation of all.