by Richard Celeste, President, MBM Student Council
The MSU-IIT Sustainable Development Studies Program (SDP) of the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension (OVCRE) partnered with Ecosystems Work for Essential Benefits, Inc. (ECOWEB) and the Catholic Overseas Development Agency CAFOD in hosting a forum on “Mainstreaming Flood Disaster Preparedness” last January 13, 2012.
Representatives from civil society organizations, government entities, and private sectors participated in the forum.
Mainstreaming disaster preparedness, as explained by CAFOD Philippine Accompanier Carino Antequisa, refers to an approach in responding to a hazard. The approach necessitates massive information drive to inform stakeholders about the hazard’s impact, their responsibilities in reducing risks, and their roles in the implementation of the action plan.
|Director Malu F. Cagay of the Center for Disaster Preparedness|
Director Malu Fellizar–Cagay, Director of the Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP), informed the forum about the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act of 2010 embodied in Republic Act No. 10121. The law, which highlights disaster prevention and risk reduction rather than emergency relief and response, lists five priorities for action for disaster risk reduction: vulnerability reduction, risk assessment, governance, knowledge management, and disaster preparedness.
Vulnerability refers to the people’s exposure to risk due mainly to the country’s geographical location along the western segment of the Pacific Ring of Fire, an unstable geophysical area within the earthquake and typhoon belts.
Director Regina Antequisa of ECOWEB facilitated a forum-workshop that identified risks and the capacities to respond to such hazards. Poverty abetted vulnerabilities and it was pinpointed as a factor to poor housing designs and the disadvantages of homes built in disaster-prone areas.
Furthermore, the lack of early warning signs, expertise, and disaster preparedness because of budget constraints, and the deficiencies in equipment and infrastructure mitigated the chances of risks. Also identified were the limited number of volunteers and the lack of cooperation among sectors of government and non-government organizations.
Dr. Rex Cruz, forest and watershed expert, lectures on integrating disaster preparedness in the CLUP
Dr. Rex Victor O. Cruz, forest and watershed management expert and Chancellor of the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, explained the practical guidelines for Integrating Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP). Predisposing factors to flooding like rugged topography, steep terrain, narrow valleys and plains, erodible soil, poor vegetation cover, and reduced infiltration induced higher risks aggravated by the rising sea level. Participants confirmed that Sendong struck during high tide.
Cruz described ways to respond to floods like sustained public education and information and the proper response to risks including the improved management of forests.
Dr. Nathaniel C. Bantayan, Head of the UPLB Geographic Information System and Environmental Modeling Specialist estimated the impact of natural hazards using Geographic Information System (GIS) and Remote Sensing. GIS detects possible hazards, estimates the extent of damage, and gives a clue to the needed response. Remote Sensing, moreover, studies data through a satellite sensor of energy from the sun absorbed by the earth’s surface.
The forum was an opportunity that drew out strong sentiments from the participants, many calling for action to the challenges these risks confronted.
Dr. Alita Roxas, Graduate Studies Dean, thanked everyone while recalling the flash floods of 2007 that demanded a more emphatic call to preparedness after complacency set in when everyone thought that life was back to normal.
A sequel to the forum was immediately held in the MSU-IIT Boardroom to plan for the next steps towards preparedness.
Dr. Olga NuÑeza, OVCRE Vice Chancellor, who acknowledged the partnerships in organizing the forum, lamented that the best time to talk about flood disaster preparedness was twenty years ago, but events dictate that “the next best time to talk about it is now.”
MSU-IIT Chancellor Dr. Sukarno Tanggol commended the organizers and noted the need for accurate forecasting and complete scientific data for the community to be better prepared. He emphasized that disaster preparedness requires the collaboration of all sectors, lessons in good governance as he recalled his studies in Public Administration.
Participants from NGOs, LGUs, and from MSU-IIT
Participants in the crafting of “next steps” to mainstream disaster preparedness in Iligan City. This session, which immediately followed the forum, was held at the MSU-IIT Boardroom.
UPLB Chancellor and forest/watershed expert Dr. Rex Victor Cruz and GIS expert Dr. Nathaniel Bantayan posed with some MSU-IIT officials after the forum.