When weather makes you tougher

After the burning summer heat, in comes the rain. It sets a totally different mood as we see less beach and travel photos and more sentimental #tbts on our social media feeds.

It’s the season when coffee tastes better, hugs are tighter, and home is much tougher to leave.

It’s the season for rain boots, umbrellas, sweaters, blankets, and lots and lots of vitamin supplements.

It is also the season to be wary of typhoons, storm surges, floods, and the destruction they bring with them.

Unfortunately, we are particularly vulnerable to these calamities. The Philippines is one of the most affected nations when it comes to the effects of climate change.

How can we forget Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, the deadliest typhoon in our history? It affected millions of people and took thousands of lives in Eastern Visayas.

The super typhoon earned us the top rank in the 2013 Climate Risk Index (CRI), which ranks countries affected by extreme weather events. In the Long Term Climate Risk Index (CRI), we are ranked the fifth most affected country in the world.

One silver lining is the fact that, even when the rain clears and a new season rolls in, rebuilding efforts and disaster preparedness initiatives are sustained.

We can proudly say that Filipinos have moved past being merely reactive.

Today, we course through the entire spectrum, from preparation and prevention to response and rehabilitation. 

We have established the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council that has released the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan (NDRRMP) for 2011 to 2028, identifying the capacities we need to develop and the roadmap to follow in order to become tougher in the face of catastrophe.

The province of Albay even established the first Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Academy for local government units and included DRR and CCA in their public education curriculum.

Even more inspiring is the outpouring of concern and gusto among young Filipinos within their own communities. During times of crisis, it is the youth that turn basketball courts, restaurants, and function rooms into warehouses with a seemingly endless supply of volunteers and donations.

These efforts are sustained throughout the year by youth groups with programs and initiatives in the field of DRR.

Foresight and programs

In Cauayan City, Isabela, the Red Cross Youth and Junior Rescue Team design and build Disaster Management Eco-rafts from recycled plastic bottles for communities that live by rivers and other areas that are prone to flooding.

After realizing that most of their members don’t know how to swim, the Hayag Youth Organization in Ormoc, Leyte came up with “Swim for Safety” or “Langoy Para sa Kaluwasan,” which provides swimming lessons to young Filipinos in vulnerable areas.

Thanks to their foresight and their program, all members were spared from the flooding brought by Yolanda.

Lastly, the Rescue Assistance Peacekeeping Intelligent Detail (RAPID) conducts training sessions for emergency response, first aid, bandaging, evacuation, and other skills.

Graduates of RAPID’s 56-hour training program were among the first responders when a ferry sank along the coast of Cebu. The trainees utilized cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to save an 8-month old baby – a skill they learned thanks to RAPID.

These are only three examples of the many youth groups that are making a tangible impact on improving disaster resilience among Filipino communities.

Currently, local government units are already working with the youth, usually as volunteers.

Now, with the Responsive, Empowered and Service-Centric Youth (RESCYouth) Act of 2015, young leaders will be formally included in the NDRRMC on a national level and on local levels – in the Regional, Provincial, City, Municipal, and Barangay Disaster Coordinating Councils.

Youth representatives will be included in the planning process, identifying strategic efforts, mobilizing communities, and making risk preparedness and disaster resiliency a part of Filipino culture.

Currently, the RESCYouth Act has passed on the third reading in the Senate and we are determined to course this through the legislative process quickly.

There is tremendous support for this legislation – from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Local Government Units (LGUs) to the NDRRMC and the National Youth Commission – and rightfully so.

Including all sectors, particularly our bright, imaginative, and passionate young Filipinos in building a stronger Philippines can only elevate our capacities.

With all hands, hearts, and minds working to build a disaster resilient Philippines, preparedness will surely be better, response operations will be tighter, and the country we call home will be much, much tougher. – Rappler.com

 

Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” A. Aquino IV, a former student council president and chairman of the National Youth Commission, is the current Chairman of the Senate Committee on Youth. E-mail your comments and suggestions to team.bamaquino@senado.ph.