DISASTER RESILIENCE

Republic Act (RA) 10121 or the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 seeks to empower concerned government agencies, local governments and communities around the country to be disaster resilient through the implementation of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation programs, projects and activities to address the various forms of potential risks nationwide. The law mandates the national and local governments to earmark a minimum of 5 percent of their annual budgets specifically for disaster risk reduction and management activities aimed at reducing the exposure of people to the natural calamities and disasters arising from human activities. Of the allocated amount, 70 percent should be used and spread out in the four thematic areas of disaster risk reduction and management: preparedness, prevention and mitigation, response and relief and rehabilitation. The balance of 30 percent serves as a quick response fund.

The Cordillera is a geologically hazardous area because of its peculiar mountainous terrain.  Benguet, including Baguio City, Mountain Province, Ifugao, the mountainous parts of Abra and Kalinga, are landslide-prone while the low-lying areas of Ifugao, Abra, Apayao and Kalinga are flood-prone. Appropriate mitigating measures must be put in place by concerned government agencies in close coordination with the local governments. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has prepared geohazard maps identifying dangerous areas around the region which could not be inhabited aside from identifying medium and low risk areas where the necessary mitigating measures must be put in place to address potential hazards of landslides, sinking among others.

On the other hand, the Department of Science and Technology and the Philippine Atmospheric and Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has set up automatic rain gauges, automatic weather stations and hydro measuring devices in strategic areas around to region to monitor the amount of rainfall. These help to determine whether or not an area has substantial amount of rain that could potentially lead to rain-induced disasters, or the swelling of major river systems. These help in predicting flooding of low-lying communities that can inform local government units and communities the need for early evacuation or prepare for the worst to come.

The creation of local disaster and risk reduction and management councils up to the barangay level is laudable. This ensures the identification of officials and personalities responsible for overseeing the compliance of communities to the plans and programs aimed at achieving zero casualty in times of disaster, including raising awareness. With the activation of these bodies, people at the grassroots level now know the basics of disaster resilience, understand the real purpose of such programs vis-à-vis the prevailing customs and traditions in a certain area. It is true that there are some age-old customary practices that are still applicable in our time, especially when it comes to disaster risk reduction, and there is a need for the concerned council to incorporate the same in the so-called disaster risk reduction and management plan. This mandatory plan outlines the vulnerability of the communities and identifies the appropriate interventions needed to spare people from being exposed to extreme danger and eventual loss of lives and damages to properties.

Each of us must start getting aware of the vulnerabilities in the areas where we live and make sure that we are also aware of the appropriate steps to undertake during when disaster strikes. We must be updated on the latest trends in our areas as information is a powerful tool in times of disasters. By being well-informed citizens, we can contribute to efforts that lessen the burden from emergency responders and volunteers during disasters.

Climate change is also contributing to the magnitude of disasters that affect us and we must actively participate in the efforts to preserve and protect the environment wherever we are. We just do not realize how much we contribute to disasters with our behaviors. We are partly to blame because we seem to have forgotten the basics of life, especially in solid waste management, preserving and protecting the environment, and having a healthy lifestyle.

Truly, disaster-resilient communities are those whose populace work together for their common welfare not only during good times but also during bad times. It is during disasters that you will know who your friends are and it is during times of comfort. The summer season is the time for us to prepare for the potential serious negative effects of the La Nina phenomenon that is projected to hit us early this year. Let us sustain and continue to build the camaraderie and solidarity we have built in our neighborhoods. Our good relations with people in our communities are our solid investments for disaster-preparedness and resilience.

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