Preparedness for Disasters | November 4, 2009

Climate change and high-intensity weather disturbances. Movement of tectonic plates and earthquakes. These were some of the topics taken up in the 22nd Kapihan sa Silsilah held at the Sunflower Restaurant on October 31, 2009. These topics were of great interest and concern to the attendees at the Kapihan, especially in the wake of the great calamity that thousands of Filipinos had to suffer as a result of Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng that passed through the Philippines in the last weeks.

The anxiety about   such natural occurrences as typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides is normal. These natural events have taken place in the past, with dire results. However, as it was explained in the Kapihan, the intensities of the same phenomena are now of a higher degree as the planet is undergoing changes caused by global warming and the resultant climate change. Also, the natural human response to events like typhoons and earthquakes has been exacerbated with the knowledge that the government is woefully unprepared for such disasters, as shown in the experience of those who were victims of the flooding and landslides caused by Ondoy and Pepeng.

Ms.Maribel Hasana Enriquez, Chief Meteorological Officer of the Zamboanga City PAGASA,    gave an information-rich presentation on the causes and effects of climate change. Engr. Allan Rommel Labayog, Science Research Analyyst of  of Philvocs, Zamboanga City,  explained the causes of earthquakes, identified the earthquake areas in the Philippines ( and Zamboanga City is in such an area) and a listing of historical earthquake occurrences in the country, including those that affected Zamboanga towards the end of the 19th century and early in the 20th century.

But it was the presentation of Mr. Adriano D. Fuego, Regional Director of the Office of Civil Defense in Zamboanga City that put people on the alert. His topic had to do with how governing bodies at several levels – barangay, municipality or city, province and nation – need to be prepared to manage the risks when a disaster strikes. Needless to say, financial outlays are essential to respond adequately to calamities and disasters. However, more than budgetary requirements, of greater import is that there is a well considered plan of response to situations and people with expertise to manage rescue, evacuation and rehabilitation operations.

The safety of the population at risk is not just a responsibility of the governing unit but also of the people themselves. It was pointed out that most of the victims of flooding and the like are the poor, those who set up their houses along river banks or along coastal areas because they have no other land to use. And even when an early-warning system is put in place, to alert  them to get out of the path of danger, many of these families choose not to comply with the warning to move elsewhere.

The Kapihan is Silsilah’s continuing effort to bring to the attention of the community residents those issues that have certain impact on their lives. Preparedness is one of the best ways to reduce the impact of disaster. And so we need to dialogue with ourselves and with others: What are the issues that we now face in our community which can be potential source of grave danger and how might we address these issues?  For instance, issues of mining and logging?

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