Preparing for the “Big One” part 2

By: Malou Guanzon Apalisok September 14,2015 - 09:29 AM

A great event with a cooperative edge was conducted in Cebu last August 6 to 14 and, as expected, except for organic members, nobody seemed to notice even if the activity is consistent with the global agenda to mitigate the impact of natural disasters on human lives and the environment.

I’m referring to the Collapsed Structure Search and Rescue (CSSR) training spearheaded by the ACDI Multipurpose Cooperative in collaboration with the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation (ERUF).  The 8-day training program held in Barangay Sangi, Lapu Lapu City is the first ever CSSR held by a cooperative in partnership with the internationally accredited ERUF.

CSSR is basically a capacity-building program that enables responders to be effective participants in planning and implementation of search and rescue efforts in the event of calamities that result in buildings and other structures to collapse.

It may be recalled that public anxiety was stirred up after seismologists in Philvolcs released the atlas of the Greater Metro Manila Area Valley Fault System last May.  The report was set against the backdrop of a devastated Nepal which was hit by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake with an intensity of 8.1 in April this year.  The devastation of Nepal lends itself to cataclysmic scenarios that we see only in movies like Armageddon except that the “big one” no longer needed validation after the Nepal experience which resulted in staggering loss of lives (10,000) and economic damage estimated at $5 billion.   Looking closer to home, we can think of our own experience after Bohol, Cebu and many parts of the Visayas were rocked by a 7.2 earthquake in October 2013.

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I was lucky enough to be invited, together with my friend and co-host of “Co-op TV” Romil Banzuelo to cover Day 5 of the social service program for the Catholic TV Channel 47.  From what we saw and heard, the CSSR is no ordinary undertaking.   A lot of resources, preparation, mobilization and close coordination with the training provider went into the endeavor.

In an interview with this corner, retired Brig. General Jaime Largo said the preparation for CSSR took all of 10 months.  ERUF had a checklist that covered criteria for the selection of participants, acquisition of necessary tools and equipment, mobilization of a support staff and finding a suitable venue.  ACDI embraced the challenge and went all the way to support it.  At the end of the training last August 14, ERUF, through Medardo “Batchie” Batiller, was all praises for the host organization’s initiative.  On the other hand, the co-op, through its vice chairman retired Major General Rolando Capacia, couldn’t find the words to thank the ERUF enough.

Thirty-two graduates passed the course with flying colors, among them retired General Jaime Largo who had reservations about taking the course owing to his age.  I can only say the CSSR is not for the weak and the faint-hearted.  A participant from Cagayan de Oro told me the training was like undergoing basic military training all over again.

The capacity-building program fills the gap in the gaping hole left by the public sector.  In other words, the national government has not yet come up with a capacity-building program, let alone organized a community of responders that could focus on collapsed structures in the event of a “big one”.

In the words of ACDI MPC Chairman, retired Major General Gilbert Llanto, there is no way we can prevent the disaster to happen but when it does, a well-designed, proper and effective response and rescue plan is key to lessen the catastrophic loss of lives.

Chairman Llanto knows whereof he speaks.  As a participant of various table-top exercises with foreign counterparts, he understands the staggering magnitude that would befell on Metro Manila environs if the killer quake strikes.  In which case, the response capability of the capital city would be greatly impaired and that is the reason why ACDI held the CSSR in Lapu-Lapu City.  Cebu would be an excellent staging ground for responders owing to the presence of the military air base in Mactan and its standby C-130s that could easily airlift the pool of responders to Manila.

I’m giving space to the CSSR to demonstrate the many gifts that self-help organizations like ACDI offer to the country, without fuss and without any cost to the government.

Our lawmakers and executives of the Department of Finance need to appreciate the impact of the service generated by the co-op movement before they even think of imposing burdens on the sector through taxes that not only deflate the momentum of the sector’s public-spiritedness but also mock their contribution to nation building.

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Big congratulations to Ador Mayol of CDN for bagging this year’s Catholic Mass Media Awards (CAMMA) for best news reporting and feature writing.  Keep it up, Ador!

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