Southern Leyte invests in disaster education to save lives
SOUTHERN LEYTE, Philippines – After working for the International Federation of Red Cross in the past two decades, Danilo Atienza felt it was time to serve Southern Leyte, his home province.
Atienza returned to head the disaster risk reduction and management team of the province, backed by a wealth of knowledge and experience in dealing with crisis situations in Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Pakistan.
"I recently declined a number of job offers abroad due to my desire to serve Southern Leyte, which is highly exposed to multiple hazards," he said.
The province is surrounded by waters and is vulnerable to typhoons, earthquakes, and landslides. (READ: Storm Surge 101: Are you at risk? Are you prepared for it?)
In 2006, a tragic landslide buried an entire village in the town of St Bernard, killing more than 1,000 residents.
Education key to preparedness
At a forum dubbed #MoveSoLeyte: Prepare, Respond, Recover held in Southern Leyte State University (SLSU) on March 6, Atienza outlined how the province is dealing with climate change and disasters.
Speaking to nearly 2,000 students, faculty members, local officials, and first responders, Atienza emphasized that education is key to preparedness.
Under his leadership, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management office (PDRRMO) designed a program that will integrate Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) into the school curriculum.
For 15 minutes every week, schools across the province will discuss how to prepare for and what to do during disasters.
"Teachers and students will be the ones to teach their families, peers, and communities about preparedness," Atienza said in a mix of Filipino and English.
DRRM on air, online
A similar education program will also be broadcast through an initiative called "DRRM on air" to reach the broader public, according to Atienza.
Atienza also said social media plays a vital role in the province's efforts to communicate disaster preparedness.
He noted that Governor Roger Mercado and his staff were active on Twitter when typhoons Yolanda and Basyang hit the province, disseminating critical information that helped residents to prepare.
He added that the province is strengthening its disaster communication system, having learned from the "delayed response" during the Guinsaugon tragedy.
Atienza's talk echoed what other speakers discussed during the forum. Rappler multimedia reporter Voltaire Tupaz, who covered disasters in Bohol and Leyte, talked about how people can share their stories, expertise, and critical needs before, during, and after disasters.
Tupaz introduced Rappler's Project Agos, a climate change and DRRM information platform which local government units, first responders, and the public can use for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.
Imagination and courage
In his talk about online and offline civic action, MovePH head Zak Yuson encouraged the students to engage in social discussions by sharing what they learn using social media.
"Did you know that there are 34 million Facebook users in the Philipines? Imagine if we can harness the number of online users for social good," Yuson said.
According to Yuson, MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm, is bringing online advocacies like disaster preparedness offline.
Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa, emphasized during her keynote address the importance of technology in paving the way for invention and social change.
Ressa said technology empowered the young generation to create content, amplify it through social media, crowdsource information, and generate big data or the massive volume of data in the Internet.
These are the technological changes that made Project Agos possible, Ressa said.
"You have power that my generation didn't have," Ressa said, emphasizing that it takes imagination and courage to use it.
"You're studying IT (information technology). You're also…doing research on technology that can change agriculture. These are all about imagination," Ressa said addressing the students and faculty of SLSU.
MovePH, in partnership with SLSU, organized the forum on the occasion of the university's 10th anniversary. (Revisit the event: LIVE BLOG: Prepare, respond, recover #MoveSoLeyte.) – Rappler.com