Philippines: Preparedness key to lower disaster risks: expert
By Mary Judaline Partlow
Dumaguete City - In the wake of two major quakes that rocked the country since Monday, the chief of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) emphasized that disaster preparedness is the key to successful disaster mitigation and response.
APSEMO chief, Dr. Cedric Daep, who was here on Tuesday, pointed out that the local government units (LGUs), the church, and the communities have their own respective roles in disaster preparedness and “if any of them will not participate or cooperate, it’s going to be a total failure, kahit magtrabaho pa ang government (even if the government is at work).”
Even the media has a role in the dissemination of correct information during a disaster, he said.
According to Daep, the challenge now is to inform and educate everyone on his/her respective roles, so that the people would already know what to do and not wait for the government to respond to an emergency situation.
“It is now supposed to be a whole (of) nation approach. Our approach now is not to rescue but to prepare the victims so they can do their own rescue to protect themselves,” he pointed out.
He lamented that unfortunately, this is not the priority of the LGUs.
“The priority of the LGU is response, meaning, preparing the responders for rescue but I suggested to them to empower the community because what we need here is that there will be no victims of any disaster,” Daep said in broken English and Filipino.
“The rescuers are just waiting for a victim to be rescued, but if the community and the people are empowered and equipped with the necessary skills and information, even if the government will not work for them, they are ready and they already know what to do,” he further said. “Then they can serve themselves even without the intervention of government because as a matter of rule in disaster protection, the first responder must be able to see and assess the situation.”
Daep also highlighted the need for LGU officials to take a pro-active stand in disaster preparedness because the success of a technical team also depends on the support of the decision-makers.
Asked what has made Albay a front-runner in disaster preparedness, he shared that they have made it a “career” to put a premium on the lives of their constituents.
Best known for achieving zero casualty during calamities, the province of Albay has institutionalized its disaster risk reduction and management office.
“Our office has been institutionalized and our program on disaster preparedness has become sustainable so that regardless of a change in political leadership, we are still there. They cannot remove us from office and that assures us of continuity of the program,” Daep said, adding that this should also be replicated in other parts of the country.
He also said the country could experience more big earthquakes because the “125 years return period is now long overdue.”
Daep said it was predicted that major earthquakes will occur in the country after a 125-year period since the last big one in 1897.
While earthquakes can be predicted, it is not possible to make a forecast, he noted.
To predict means to be able to tell the possibility of an earthquake occurrence in a certain area, but to forecast means to be able to tell when it would happen, and that is not possible, he explained.
An earthquake is considered as a sudden, natural hazard and it may happen any time without warning, therefore readiness and the way of life should be there all the time, he said.
Daep was invited to speak during a one-day disaster preparedness training here sponsored by Smart Communications, Inc. (PNA)