No room for complacency
The sad news of deaths in Carmen and Danao resulting from flashfloods in Cebu on Easter Sunday should be taken as another painful lesson in inculcating a mindset of resilience in the era of disasters in this most vulnerable country of ours. Of the five initially identified as victims, four were children, and one, a woman, the children’s mother.
Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) was not remiss in the duty of informing us on the state of the tropical depression “Crising”.
The Philippine Coast Guard suspended sea travel last Saturday, with thousands of travelers stranded in various ports.
Typhoon signal was up in northern Cebu and other parts of the Visayas.
In the past, a tropical depression was taken lightly. But with the vastly changed climate, there is no room for complacency on the part of both authorities and citizens.
Incessant rains can bring highly urbanized cities like Cebu and Mandaue to a standstill with flooded streets, as many experienced yesterday.
The Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (DRRMC) for each province, city and municipality should ensure that each Barangay Development Council has a functioning DRRM Committee up to par with the role as the first responder to any disaster or calamity.
According to RA 10121, the Philippines Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, the functions of a DRRM Council and Barangay DRRM Committee, include, among others, the following:
(i) Design, program, and coordinate disaster risk reduction and management activities consistent with the National Council’s standards and guidelines;
(ii) Facilitate and support risk assessments and contingency planning activities at the local level;
(iii) Consolidate local disaster risk information which includes natural hazards, vulnerabilities, and climate change risks, and maintain a local risk map;
(iv) Organize and conduct training, orientation, and knowledge management activities on disaster risk reduction and management at the local level;
(v) Operate a multi-hazard early warning system, linked to disaster risk reduction to provide accurate and timely advice to national or local emergency response organizations and to the general public, through diverse mass media, particularly radio, landline communications, and technologies for communication within rural communities;
(vi) Conduct continuous disaster monitoring and mobilize instrumentalities and entities of the LGUs, CSOs, private groups and organized volunteers, to utilize their facilities and resources for the protection and preservation of life and properties during emergencies in accordance with existing policies and procedures;
(vii) Identify, assess and manage the hazards vulnerabilities and risks that may occur in their locality;
(viii) Disseminate information and raise public awareness about those hazards, vulnerabilities and risks, their nature, effects, early warning signs and counter-measures;
(ix) Identify and implement cost-effective risk reduction measures / strategies;
(x) Develop, strengthen and operationalize mechanisms for partnership or networking with the private sector, CSOs, and volunteer groups;
(xi) Take all necessary steps on a continuing basis to maintain, provide, or arrange the provision of, or to otherwise make available, suitably trained and competent personnel for effective civil defense and disaster risk reduction and management in its area;
(xii) Respond to and manage the adverse effects of emergencies and carry out recovery activities in the affected area, ensuring that there is an efficient mechanism for immediate delivery of food, shelter and medical supplies for women and children, endeavor to create a special place where internally displaced mothers can find help with breastfeeding, feed and care for their babies and give support to each other
In these most perilous of times, is there a performing and active Barangay Development Council with a functioning Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Committee, in each of the 42,036 barangays, in 1490 municipalities, 144 cities, and 81 provinces of the country?
It is a question that needs to be answered, and for the supervising local government units and the Department of Interior and Local Government, to ascertain, monitor and exact accountability.
The lives of citizenry, especially the vulnerable sectors like the children, the elderly, those with disability, the ailing, and the women, depend upon authorities at the barangay level who have the ability, foresight and the heart to ensure that each person is prepared for any contingency. It should be noted that those who perished in the Carmen flashfloods were children, and the children’s mother.
Were the deaths and injuries avoidable if there was an implementation of a Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Program?
RA 10121 defines it as “a process of disaster risk reduction and management in which at risk communities are actively engaged in the identification, analysis, treatment, monitoring and evaluation of disaster risks in order to reduce their vulnerabilities and enhance their capacities, and where the people are at the heart of decision-making and implementation of disaster risk reduction and management activities.”
Are the constituents involved in the program including mapping out high risk areas and what they needed to do to reduce the risks?
Was there multi-hazard early warning system that should have notified people especially in highly vulnerable areas to evacuate and seek shelter elsewhere?
These queries and more have to be responded to in an investigation that the Cebu Province is tasked to do, if we are to give meaning to the tragic deaths of its constituents.
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