By Johnny C. Nunez
LEGAZPI CITY, July 29 (PNA) — Disaster preparedness is now part of daily life routine among Albayanos, “just like taking a bath.” It is now part of their culture and way of life.
Commenting on the country’s state of disaster preparedness, particularly on the widely publicized likelihood of an earthquake in highly congested Metro Manila, Albay Governor Joey Salceda said government needs to level up on preparations and mitigation initiatives on climate change and disasters because “it is our response that will always shape up human conditions.”
The United Nations has declared Albay as its Global Model in climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR), and Salceda, a multi-awarded campaigner for CCA and DRR as its Senior Global Champion and spokesman on CCA-DRR. He also served as 2014-2915 Board chairman of the UN Green Climate Fund.
Interviewed after President Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) early this week, Salceda said both the evacuation routes and evacuation centers should be safe, because in times of earthquakes, a large number of people have to be moved swiftly, to make sure they reach their destinations safely and fast enough or be trapped.
Disaster preparations are founded on capacity building for all elements of the community — from its smallest unit, the family; to the state of mind of the entire community itself; the schools, most particularly, the emergency relief, food, health provisions and sanitation, to long term infrastructure planning and execution, he explained.
Authorities said a possible 7.2 magnitude quake may shake Metro Manila any time soon which could result in some 33,000 fatalities. Officials said evacuation camps have already been identified. Regular emergency drills are now being undertaken. A nationwide earthquake drill has also been set on July 30.
“I don’t see safe routes in Metro Manila. For one, if an earthquake strikes, where will you pass? And you must also build evacuation centers and not just put people in golf courses,” Salceda said.
Albay, one of the most disaster-prone areas in the country, has initiated pioneering programs in CCA-DRR, which have earned its awards and recognitions from both national and international institutions. Among such honors are three Gawad Kalasag Awards and a Hall of Fame niche from the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council.
Albay has invested substantially in strengthening infrastructures to mitigate damage during calamities. Its multi-billion peso Albay GUICADALE (Guinobatan-Camalig-Daraga-Legazpi) Economic Township program was initially a geostrategic intervention to move people from risky areas to safer grounds, but is now fast shaping up as an economic development platform to transform its 64,000-hectare area into a sprawling business boom center.
The Albay provincial government now conducts regular training on risk reduction in schools and local communities and has set in place early warning systems and emergency management equipment. (PNA)