Yolanda recovery: Crossing borders through civic action
MANILA, Philippines – “Although Yolanda took all of us to ground zero, helping hands came from far and wide, local and international support complemented domestic relief assistance from the national government, private organizations, and individuals who volunteered time and resources to contribute to the relief and rehabilitation efforts.”
This was the message of Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) president Isagani Serrano and Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA) president Dr Shigeru Suganami during the opening of the “International Conference on Yolanda/Haiyan Reconstruction: Bayanihan/Sogo-Fujo [相互扶助] Without Borders” on March 8, at the Cocoon Botique Hotel, Quezon City.
This conference, which gathered participants from government agencies, the academe, and local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), highlighted the emergency relief activities in the disaster-hit areas and discussed the future reconstruction activities in the Philippines.
Serrano and Suganami said that in the promotion of volunteerism in the face of worsening climate and natural disasters, it is essential to gather together the wisdom of the international community.
“It is essential to build a strong and lasting relationship, and even formulate an effective cooperation framework for the future disasters in the Philippines as well as other Asian countries,” Serrano added.
Suganami emphasized that this framework should “foster true partnership that would bring forth mutual respect and trust among people of Asia and the world.”
Several local government officials and community leaders from Yolanda-affected areas shared their rebuilding experiences during the conference.
Leyte Provincial Board member Mimiette Bagulaya and Leyte Medical Society president Dr Mina Claridad-Tagra described Yolanda as a symbol of hope and resilience which inspired shared endeavors between private individuals and the international community to give assistance to the affected residents.
“Super typhoon Yolanda brought us to a new beginning. While the typhoon took away everything from us, it will also remind us of the stories of love, support, assistance to the people who struggled much from the destruction brought about by the disaster,” Bagulaya said.
Meanwhile, Mayor Mark Biong of Giporlos, Eastern Samar talked about the challenges confronting the poor local government units (LGUs) in the reconstruction process.
“The coordinated activities of the different groups are very important for the impoverished LGUs like Giporlos to recover, that’s why we are also very thankful for the money donations that are coming. Through these, we were able to somehow start with the rebuilding of key infrastructures and social services,” Biong said.
Jom Bagulaya, the Committee Chair on the Agriculture of the Tacloban City Council, relayed the message of Mayor Alfred Romualdez about the rebuilding efforts of the economic hub of Eastern Visayas.
“With the overwhelming strength demonstrated by the people who have inspired the world to come together in the face of adversity, we have every reason to be thankful and remain confident that we will build back better," Bagulaya said.
Lessons from Yolanda
A panel discussion with officials from domestic and international organizations also served as a venue to tackle how communities can better deal with disasters.
Maylene Beltran from the Bureau of International Health Cooperation explained how the Department of Health (DOH) responded during the typhoon Yolanda.
Aside from describing the devolved structure of medical operations, Beltran emphasized on the important role of the government agency in terms of rationalizing the acceptance of medical teams which were deployed in the affected areas.
“DOH served as the main government agency responsible for approval, processing, and coordination of the medical missions to the Philippines,” Beltran explained.
General Virgilio Garcia of the Technical and Administration Service Brigade, meanwhile, discussed the role of the military and reserve components during disasters. Garcia emphasized how important it is for the government to review the laws on reserve force as it is one of the first responders during calamities.
Captail Gloria Jumamil-Mercado of the Navy Reserve Command, similarly, talked about how volunteerism was enhanced during the Yolanda disaster.
“Volunteers must be able to learn how to navigate with the politics of relief operation. It is better to work with more neutral institutions such state universities and colleges. Moreover, there is a need to upscale the institutional capacity of the reservist force so that the voluntarism which was shown would be fully realized,” Jumamil-Mercado said.
Among other organizations which presented their experiences were Iloilo City Lions Club, Fukuyama Medical Association, Japan Medical Association, AMDA Philippines, Mercy Malaysia, and Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps.
Serrano and Suganami also stressed that there is lack of knowledge about disasters in terms of planning and coordination.
“In truth, there is still so much that we do not know about Yolanda. Not only the Filipinos but also the people from other countries and what you do not know represent vulnerability. This is the reason why the government must include disaster education in the school curriculum,” Serrano said.
The conference came up with the “Manila Declaration on Post-Yolanda Reconstruction” which rallied the support og future collaboration for the post-Yolanda rebuilding efforts in the Philippines.
Suganami said that the declaration is based on the assumption that the “outpouring of goodwill and humanity assures us that, regardless of distance, people will come to help those in need.”
The declaration and other conference outputs will be sent to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). for action. – Rappler.com