MANILA, Philippines – Albay Governor Joey Salceda is certainly a character. With a notable Facebook following and a tendency to speak his mind, Salceda can be a polarizing fellow to people online, but is a unifying force to the people of Albay.
At the Social Good Summit held at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati, Salceda was poised to talk about how social media plays a role in the disaster preparedness and response of Albay.
What we didn’t expect: a candid and often humorous discussion on how Albay managed to become a model for avoiding casualties when disaster strikes, peppered with talk about the realities facing poorer areas and funny jabs at the situation the Philippines faces as a disaster-prone area.
Here are the quotes and ideas we liked the most from his talk:
The ‘Vatican’ of disasters: “We’re the Vatican of disasters.” Salceda said China has far more people than the Philippines, but has a fewer number of students affected by natural disasters.
Hazards and risks: The textbook definition of hazards and risks tends to lump them together, but in disaster management, hazards refer to a source of potential damage or harm, while risks refer to situations a person exposes himself to that could harm him.
Salceda provides a example of the difference, saying, “Hazards? Hindi ko naman mapaalis ang Mayon.” (Hazards? I can’t make Mayon Volcano leave.)
He added to that later on, noting that they use Google and mapping technology to identify houses that are at risk. “Ang hazard, nagiging risk pag alam ng tao!” (Hazards become risks when people know about them!”
On keeping it real: Gov Salceda said the idea was to give Albay the capacity to know what to do in the event of a disaster. The idea: “[the] capacity to save the community should be built into the community.” He did not mince words with community leaders when it came time to teach them. He tried make sure that he, as well as these community leaders, went into this “knowing they can die.”
Being in the know: “Information in times of disasters has become as important as food and shelter,” notes Salceda.
In Albay, the means of disseminating information has changed from being a radio-and-tv centric venue, to one of social media, with 56% of people preferring the Internet and social media for disaster information, compared to 32% for TV, 24% for radio, and 12% for the broadsheets.
Social media helped in a number of ways — social media stood out during pre-disaster and disaster preparedness situations when something was about to hit. As a result, social media helped secure zero casualties, reduced the uncertainty and damages caused by a disaster, cut down the cost of rehabilitating an area, and took care of people through better targeting.
Salceda welcomed the rise of social media, saying, “malaki pasasalamat ko sa social media. It has enhanced our DRR (disaster risk reduction) capabilities.”
Closing the loop and social media: Salceda was aware of how social media had what he called a “feedback loop mechanism.” What someone says on social media impacts other people, and this impact can drive people to action, either in a positive or negative way.
He added, “The heart and soul of social media is how people can speak wherever they are, on whatever circumstances, on their own terms.”
Salceda recognized that social media could only work if it was treated as a humanizing force. In part of his talk, he noted how it was important to understand the people who lived in an area.
He also noted that social media and social networks could be used for purposefully good intent. “Sino ba and nagsabi na sa FB, you add enemies? You add friends!” (Who said that you added enemies on Facebook? You add friends!).
What good friend wouldn’t want to protect and keep his friends safe?
It’s that approach — the friendly, joking manner mixed with the calculating protectiveness of friendship — that Salceda exuded when he spoke. With over 50,000 followers on Facebook, a good number of whom are people who look to him for leadership, it’s no wonder that when he says something calamitous is happening, people listen.
Watch the speech of Gov. Salceda: