Loren Legarda on saving lives

FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - December 10, 2013 - 12:00am

Super Typhoon Yolanda, says Sen. Loren Legarda,  “is the new benchmark for disaster prevention and preparedness.  Like all natural hazards, Yolanda was inevitable,  but its disastrous effects could have been prevented or mitigated if we were more prepared.” 

The senator knows what she’s talking about. She is chair of the Senate committee on climate change and environment and natural resources. She is also United Nations Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific.

In the eventuality of the repeat of super typhoons and other calamities, she presents a five-point plan to make communities resilient, save lives, and prevent massive destruction of property.

1. Manage risks rather than manage disasters. This is called “risk governance.” Local government units (LGUs) must determine if certain risks are prevalent in a community, making it vulnerable to the effects of a landslide, flooding, tsunami, storm surge or earthquake.

The World Bank estimates that for every dollar invested in disaster reduction measures saves seven to ten dollars in losses from natural disasters.

Local disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) plans must be crafted to address these threats and funds should be sufficiently allocated to effectively carry out these plans, says Legarda.  

Legarda points to Barangay Cunsad in the municipality of Alimodian, Iloilo,  as a good example of preparedness.  In July 2012,  Typhoon Gener’s  heavy rains that triggered major landslides in Cunsad recorded zero casualty. This was because when  the natural signs of impending landslide showed up in the populated barangay of Cunsad, the municipal government immediately sought the help of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for risk assessment and heeded the advice of geologists to relocate the residents.

2. Every Filipino should be  â€œdisaster-literate.” The public must be made to understand and cooperate with the local government on the importance of early evacuation. The government can conduct training for building the resilience of families covered by the Conditional Cash Transfer Program, together with the DSWD and the League of Barangays.

A good example is that during the  onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda, all 500 houses in the island of Tulang Diyot in the municipality  of San Francisco, in Cebu province were destroyed,  but the entire population was saved because of prompt evacuation led by former Mayor of San Francisco, Alfredo Arquillano, a UNISDR Champion. Arquillano said that “when it was clear how bad the typhoon would be, we decided to evacuate all 1,000 people. Because we’ve done so much work on disaster risk, everyone fully understood the need to move to safety.”

3.  The public must be taught on the dangers a calamity brings. Having experts gather and validate scientific data allows the accurate prediction of events, which could then be matched with the best practical solutions, and where a typhoon will strike, and how, are critical knowledge that will allow the community to timely seek safer ground and fully protect their homes and properties, says Legarda.

4. Building on good risk reduction practices means going back to the very basics: protecting our ecosystems and natural buffers such as mangrove forests to mitigate floods, storm surges and other hazards, says Legarda. 

“Our environment and its ecosystem support human life and provide the basic materials for our economy, such as food, fuel and clean water. The ecosystem also sequesters carbon emissions, regulates erosion and landslides, and reduces floods.” 

Here are two  good examples. In Montalban, Rizal, a group of women farmers have started to practice agroforestry to adapt to the prolonged wet season; while in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, a group of women fisherfolk reforested over a hundred hectares of mangrove areas to protect their settlements from storm surges and secure additional source of food for their families.

5. “Preparation is half the battle won,” says the senator.  While disaster prevention should be the greater focus of our efforts, response preparedness is likewise important to prevent further casualties.

Contingency plans are crucial in times of disasters. Communities must draw and test regularly their response plan way ahead of any disaster event and improve constantly on early warning systems and emergency management capacities.

According to Legarda, LGUs must have the political will to implement forced evacuation when called for.  Shelters for evacuees should be well designed, built strong, and prepared ahead of time with emergency supplies of food, water, medicine, shelter, and toiletries, while government agencies are ready to augment the basic needs of evacuees.

Another good example is the “Purok System” in the municipality of San Francisco, Camotes Island, in the province of Cebu, which won the 2011 UN Sasakawa Award for Disaster Reduction. The Purok System allows the immediate self-organization within villages and focuses on addressing the vulnerability of every barangay in the municipality by mobilizing local resources in creating local and practical solutions based on the unique needs of every community.

For Legarda, these five steps are achievable with smooth coordination among agencies of government, all sectors of society, and the citizens.

“The key is to work together, as one community, as one nation. We must rebuild communities aware of the lessons of Yolanda, Sendong, Pablo, the Bohol earthquake and all other major disasters that have brought us to our feet. We must not rebuild the risks. We must rebuild stronger, wiser and smarter,” says Legarda.

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The House of Camus recently unveiled the new packaging and redesigned bottles of their iconic Elegance range of Cognacs at a trade dinner at the Black Olive Cerveceria in Capitol Commons, Pasig City. The new package was timed with the firm’s 150th anniversary.

The outline of Château du Plessis, home of the Camus family in Cognac, is depicted on the new gift boxes. The glass bottles of Elegance VS and VSOP bear the redesigned logo of Camus featuring the emblematic cloverleaf as a reminder of the first ever bottles sold in 1863. Also embossed on each glass bottles is the signature of Cyril Camus, fifth generation president of Camus and the creator of the Elegance collection. 

Jean Christophe Rasse, Camus area manager, narrated the story of how 150 years ago, winegrower Jean-Baptiste Camus’ strong passion for crafting exceptional cognacs led to the  founding of the Camus La Grande Marque cognac distillery in 1863 in Cognac, France. Camus is recognized today as the world’s fifth largest Cognac producer and the largest independent and family-owned Cognac House. 

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 The University of the Philippines Alumni Association is sponsoring comedian Willie Nepomuceno in “COMIC RELIEF: It’s more fund in the Philippines” on December 14, Saturday, 8 p.m., at the Music Museum in Greenhills, San Juan City. The show is for the benefit of UP students, faculty and staff deprived of facilities and resources by Super Typhoon Yolanda, specifically those in the devastated UPV Tacloban College and UPM School of Health Sciences in Palo, Leyte.

With funds generated from the show, the UPAA hopes to help enable many of the severely afflicted students to continue their schooling in the Leyte campuses, or other UP campuses.

Tickets for the show are priced at P3,000, P2,500, P2,000 and P1,500, according to theater location. These are available at the UPAA office at 2/F Ang Bahay ng Alumni, Magsaysay Ave., UP Diliman campus, tels. 9206868, 92068-71, email: upalumn@yahoo.com; or at Ticket World and The Music Museum.

The UPAA also accepts donations payable to the UP Foundation, Inc., which are 100% tax deductible.

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