Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Editorial by Ernesto T. Solidum

Disaster Preparedness Demands Everyone’s Cooperation

Kapihan forum on August 29, 2015 discussed the topic, “Aklan Disaster Preparedness and Program”. The guests at NVC Carmen Hotel are Mr. Galo Ibardolaza, executive officer of PDRRMC and Mr. Arjay Arguelles, Planning Officer I. PPDO.

Mr. Ibardolaza said that PDRRMC is created by virtue of RA 10121. It mandates LGU’s to organize disaster risk reduction and management council at barangay, municipal and provincial levels. Disaster preparedness is implemented before, during and after a calamity such as flash flood based on early warning system. We have strategic sensors installed in bridges of Libacao and Madalag and Mobo, Kalibo to closely monitor floodwater level. Usually, it takes between two hours and thirty minutes and two hours and fifty minutes before rushing floodwaters strike population centers of Kalibo and Numancia. The time lag allows enough time for people to prepare and evacuate to safer ground or evacuation center.

It should be recalled that heavy loss of lives and properties were recorded during super typhoon Frank with 52 deaths while with 14 deaths with Yolanda. The big difference is ample preparation and timely response of volunteers. Kalibo MDRRMC has recently acquired an electronic early warning system that can be programmed to alert people living in flood prone areas. The locals are yet on familiarization stage as to coded siren blasts.

There are four thematic risks namely: a) disaster prevention (flood control dikes, reforestation, dredging), b) disaster preparedness (calamity building and education, purchase of life saving equipment, prepositioning of relief goods), c) disaster response (distribution of food, medicine and clothing relief) and d) disaster recovery (distribution of seeds, fertilizer, piglets to farmers) explained Ibardolaza.

Mr. Arguelles advised people living in flood prone areas of Kalibo, Numancia, Lezo, Malinao, Madalag, Banga and Libacao to consult official geohazard map prepared by Mines and Geosciences Bureau. Last August 14, those towns engaged in community Aklan river clean up drive that removed tons of debris and household trash. Result: surging flood spawned by typhoon Ineng subsided after a few hours instead of 1-2 days. With the success of civic action, many suggested, to conduct a quarterly operation, Arguelles disclosed.

Johnny Dayang, Pres. PAPI strongly recommended for more volunteers and training of local residents to enhance disaster preparedness and response. He noted that the present set-up of PDRRMC has inadequate funds to hire regular service personnel and purchase vital rescue equipment.

Whoever thought that disaster such as flash flood can be prevented by reforestation, dredging and building concrete dikes must be kidding. Granted that tens of billions of pesos is spent by the government on these projects, Mother Nature could be halted from unleashing her fury when critical mass build-up is reached. Typhoon Frank on June 21, 2008 dumped huge volume of water in Aklan for a 24 hour per-iod and the result was catastrophic proportion not seen in living memory.

Hurricane Katrina is considered one of the worse natural disasters that hit the US in recent history despite its protective shield of hundreds of kilometers of concrete dikes, locking system and pumping stations. Worse, the battered State of Louisiana was submerged in filthy water for nearly 3 months and killed 21 people.

It should be recalled that STL Panay Resources Ltd. proposed a dredging project on the Aklan river for disaster mitigation and not prevention. Target was 15 million cubic meters of gravel and sand priced at nominal P5.00 cost per cubic meter or P75 million total.

The above development projects must not be misconstrued as unnecessary bit in the context to actually mitigate or reduce the impact of disaster. Here, prevention cannot be applied on this case and defi nitely outside its scope.

A rational strategy could be taming floodwaters by constructing hydroelectric dams. (in Libacao and Madalag), regulating and diverting water flow to irrigate crops, acquaculture projects and tapping for domestic household uses. This has been proven successful in the newly industrialized countries of China, India and Brazil.

It should be underscored that the seven towns prone to flash floods are adjacent to each other and very significant in terms of population size and area. Kalibo, the provincial capital, is center of commerce, industry, and education. It is feared however that with frequent overflow of Aklan river resulting damages to property, investors may turn to other flood-free areas like Malay, Nabas, and Ibajay.

Disaster preparedness targets zero casualty in human lives. The degree of efficiency therefore in rendering services to victims can be based on how well target is achieved. Here, success demands everyone’s cooperation. /MP

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