disaster risk reduction and management

Communities, families at the heart of zero-casualty disaster response

Iya Gozum

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Communities, families at the heart of zero-casualty disaster response

ZERO CASUALTY. Rappler's senior reporter Pia Ranada hosts Move PH's "#ZeroCasualty: How do we get there?" learning session.

In a special session of #FactsFirstPH learning series, groups and advocates discuss how communities, families can get more involved in disaster response and mitigation

MANILA, Philippines – Engaged communities and households make up half the story in the success of a disaster risk reduction and management plan. The other half is accessible information on disasters, hazards, risks, and response.

In a forum organized by Rappler’s civic engagement arm MovePH on Friday, July 28, civil society groups, advocates, and personnel from disaster risk reduction and management offices came together to discuss how the zero-casualty goal can be achieved in the Philippines. 

How the Philippines can better respond and mitigate disasters continues to be an ongoing conversation, especially after it topped a list by the 2022 World Risk Index of disaster-prone countries.

Among the issues discussed during the forum, entitled “#ZeroCasualty: How Do We Get There,” were disinformation during disasters, education and disaster risk communication, and the challenges that persist.

The panel included Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) Director Teresito C. Bacolcol; Oxfam Pilipinas’ monitoring, evaluation, learning and social accountability manager Randee Cabaces; and Myles Delfin, founder of The Bike Scouts Project. 

Delfin pointed out that discussions on disaster risk reduction usually revolve around accessibility of information. Local context, which Delfin said determines “what the community needs,” can be overlooked at times. 

“Data and information is just half of the story,” said Delfin on Friday. “(The other) Half of the story is local context.”

Vonne Villanueva, the head of Navotas City’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, emphasized the need to train and prepare households. He said: “If you want resilient communities, make the family, the household resilient.” 

For example, Villanueva said, quarterly drills are usually held in schools and offices, but the family as a unit does not execute the drills together. 

Challenges

But there are several challenges hindering communities, local government units (LGU) gunning for a zero casualty disaster response.

For one, disaster funds are usually underutilized. 

Cabaces of Oxfam Pilipinas said one of the reasons why funds were underutilized was that LGUs do not sustain effective mitigation programs. Cabaces told Rappler that LGUs would usually use the quick response funds as the disaster happens.

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LGUs also said that the tedious procurement process and lack of personnel contributed to the inconsistencies in implementing disaster risk reduction and management plans.

Shortage of any kind are not only felt in the LGU level. Even national government offices such as Phivolcs suffer from insufficient resources.

Bacolcol said that Phivolcs is only monitoring 10 out of 24 active volcanoes in the country due lack of funds. “We have shortage of funds, wala kaming natitira, that’s why we ask for more funds from the government,” added Bacolcol.

Seeking solutions

One of the low-hanging fruits determined in the panel was the use of social media. Despite rampant disinformation, social media remained an accessible and popular platform for many people. “If we can make it factual, then our [disaster] response can be more efficient and effective,” said Delfin.

On ground, there were many examples from disaster response to recovery efforts.

Bacolcol cited Albay province as a role model when it comes to evacuation measures. Albay is susceptible to typhoons. The province is currently under threat by the Mayon Volcano’s “increased tendency towards a hazardous eruption.” Phivolcs raised Mayon’s status to Alert Level 3 last June, which means the volcano is showing high level of volcanic unrest and eruption could happen in the following weeks.

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During the panel, Cabaces also said how grassroots initiative Linao Self Help Group, an organization of women from Sitio Linao, Dolores, Eastern Samar, pool savings together to fund community social enterprises. Studies show that self-help groups assist people overcome financial and resource constraints during disasters.

Women and children, in particular, are more vulnerable when disaster strikes. It’s been suggested that women, boys, and girls are 14 times more likely to die than men during disasters.

This forum is part of the #FactsFirstPH community learning sessions that MovePH is organizing with partners. Upcoming sessions for the rest of the year would discuss digital rights and responsibilities, disinformation, civic engagement and participation.

MovePH is also open to hearing from organizations interested to partner for the #FactsFirstPH community learning series. Feel free to reach out to move.ph@rappler.com. – Rappler.com

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.