Year 2018 was welcomed with tropical cyclone “Agaton”. Early this year, some towns in the province of Apayao were flooded due to northeast monsoon or Amihan. Mayon Volcano is on alert level 4, Mt. Kanlaon is on alert level 2 for almost 3 months now, while alert level 1 is raised over Mt. Bulusan since 2015. Just lately, Mt. Pulag and Mt. Ulap were set on fire.
And if we are to revisit what have transpired in the previous years, we might perhaps create a long list of unfortunate events that have brought massive destruction and death.
It is a fact that our country is prone to disasters due to our vulnerability and exposure to natural and human-induced hazards. Geographically, Philippines is located along Pacific Ring of Fire which makes us prone to seismic activities – earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. We are also situated within the Pacific Typhoon Belt, that is why the possibility to be hit by 20 to 25 tropical cyclones in a year is very high.
Natural and human-induced hazards abound in the country, and we cannot ultimately control natural hazards. In the recent study of the World Risk Index, Philippines is still the third country at risk.
These are facts and this is the “new normal”.
Extreme weather events, not to mention human-induced disasters like the recent Marawi Crisis, are the new normal. These and climate change are compromising people’s resilience.
And of all these ricocheting realities, there is one we can consider as a myth – with the unique situation we are in, we cannot do anything about it. This is incorrect because by increasing our capacities, we can address the underlying factors causing the vulnerabilities and exposures so that the disaster risks can be reduced.
It has been almost eight (8) years since disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) was enacted in the Philippines. The Republic Act 10121 or Philippine DRRM Act of 2010 urges to make risk reduction a priority both at national and local levels, build awareness and understanding, reduce the underlying risk factors, and strengthen its four thematic areas – prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response, and rehabilitation and recovery.
It was a paradigm shift from reactive to proactive approach; investment on prevention, mitigation, and preparedness rather than depleting resources for response. Aside from more systematic process, the act is a reminder that DRRM is everyone’s responsibility – not just the government, not just the members of the DRRM councils but including all stakeholders down to the grassroot level.
Why include grassroot? Because communities at-risk must actively engaged in the identification, analysis, treatment, monitoring, and evaluation of disaster risks. And the Local Government Units (LGUs) are the front-liners or the first line of defense.
Why is disaster preparedness important? Because it saves lives and as they say, “prevention is better than cure.”
With this, we are faced with another reality and that is “resilience” is not an overnight mission. That once we do it today, we are sure that we will be saved the next day. No, because it must be a continuous process. That is why readiness initiatives must be regularly implemented. For instance, the Nationwide Simultaneous Earthquake Drill (NSED) done every three (3) months.
The key to efficient and effective disaster risk reduction is to overcommunicate and overprepare. It is better to overdo preparations than do nothing at all. One more good point is that disaster preparedness starts at home and its starts within ourselves.
Countless times, our resilience have been tested. Countless times, we recuperate from the wraths of disasters. Therefore, our preparedness must also be countless.
If disasters are the new normal, let preparedness be a part of our everyday life. We should never be satisfied with one preparedness measure.
Accept the challenge of DRRM and make it as a personal responsibility; surviving, outlasting the ravages of any hazard, and making our communities resilient are duties of every Filipino.
Let us keep challenging ourselves. Let us continue propagating the message of empowerment. Let us persevere in raising awareness on disaster risk reduction and management towards resilience.