By Bong D. Fabe
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Five barangays hit by Tropical Storm Washi (local name: Sendong) underwent a workshop on disaster risk reduction and resiliency management in the last week of May organized by the Balay Mindanao Group (BMG) of NGOs in an effort to train the barangay folks how to respond to natural disasters induced by climate change.
“In every barangay, before we plan for rescue efforts during disasters, it is important to do contingency planning first, learning and training on disaster management. Because once the communities are already prepared, we may no longer need to do rescue operations should disaster happen. Like, even before the flood would come, people in the disaster-prone area may have already left because they already knew what to do,” said Arthur David Neame, resiliency building consultant of BMG’s latest program, the Disaster Risk Reduction, Response Management and Resiliency Building (DRRRMRB) program.
The DRRRBM program came into being as a response to the Sendong disaster on December 16, 2011, which also victimized some officers and staff of BMG.
Neame said it is paramount that communities be equipped with the basic tools about disaster management and at the same time build their resiliency “because hazards and disasters are getting stronger, worsening and recurring.”
Ariel C. Hernandez, former executive director of the Balay Mindanao Foundation, Inc. (BMFI) and former congressman representing the Anak Mindanao (AMIN) partylist, said that BMG is really serious in its DRRRBM program because “we know how it is to be victimized by a disaster.”
“We are really very serious in helping our communities through this program because we also experienced Sendong,” said the senior BMG director whose house was inundated by the floodwaters that rampaged through the city on that fateful night nine days before Christmas.
“I am one of the lucky ones to have survived the devastation, thank God,” he added.
Despite suffering from Sendong’s wrath, BMG simply swayed with the wind but did not crack. Instead, it came up with the slogan “We refuse to be victims. We choose to be resources,” as it pooled its own resources and those donated by local, national and international agencies, friends and institutions to help the thousands of survivors in barangays Iponan, Bonbon, Kauswagan, Carmen and Indahag.
Neame, admiring the response of BMG to Sendong, simply said: “Balay Mindanaw quickly employed the slogan … and they have lived up to that. I am working with people whose own houses were reduced to wreckage; whose life histories were smothered by mud, where everything they ever worked for have been destroyed, swept away, or are still lying in the mud.”
Rochelle Mordeno, DRRRMRB program manager, said it is very important that communities learn how to respond to disaster because disasters, especially those induced by human activities, set back the government’s timetable for development.
“Disaster response is not a humanitarian issue. It is a development issue,” she stressed.
“Disaster risk reduction should be part in the development of a nation. In our plans, we should include the risks so we won’t be wasting our resources, including human resources,” rejoined Neame.
Participants to the workshop were taught about the Hyogo Framework, Republic Act 10121 or the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act of 2010, among others.
They were also taught the basic tools in Participatory Capacity and Vulnerability Assessment (PCVA) to equip them in helping their communities’ officials draw a true hazard, vulnerability and risk map of their barangays. This way, they can come up with an appropriate response program so that when disaster strikes, people will know what to do and thus avoid loss of lives.
“Hazards are natural but disasters are man-made,” explained Neame.