Manila, Philippines (10 August 2012) – Months before the monsoon rains caused widespread flooding in Metro Manila and nearby provinces in the Philippines this week, a few municipalities had already began to prepare for the worst-case scenario, and this has saved lives and minimized the impact of an otherwise deadly disaster.
Cainta and Angono in Rizal and Sta. Cruz, in Laguna were three of the most affected areas when typhoon Ketsana hit the Philippines in 2009. Ketsana was one of the worst disasters recorded in Philippine history and showed the scale of the country’s risk to inclement weather.
Since then, local governments in these areas have worked with various national agencies and aid groups including international non-profit organization Oxfam in conducting preparedness training workshops, drafting contingency plans, setting up early warning systems, and beefing up rescue and food relief provisions.
Leading these efforts are Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices (DRRMOs) lodged in local government, which were created under the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act passed in early 2010.
(This law reflected a paradigm shift where the government invests in building people’s resilience to disaster instead of merely responding to calamities. In particular, calamity funds may now be used to prepare for disasters instead of only releasing them once an emergency occurs.)
All the preparation has paid off. In assessments conducted by Oxfam since yesterday, the casualty count in all three places has been low and evacuation plans were carried out swiftly and orderly. Basic needs like food, water, and clothes have been provided quickly to evacuees housed in temporary shelters identified long before.
Several evacuation camps in Cainta and Angono, Oxfam has found, are being efficiently managed; toilets are running and food and water are rationed on time. The provincial government of Laguna produced informational materials on disaster preparedness and, like Rizal, systems were already in place before the monsoon rains hit the province.
“Community preparedness to disasters is key in warding off loss of lives and damages to properties in times of a disaster,” said Paul del Rosario, spokesperson for the Philippines humanitarian program of Oxfam.
Rizal and Laguna DRRMOs shared with Oxfam the need for the national government to provide more funds for disaster preparedness. For now, these offices can still manage but their resources will be overstretched if the high waters do not recede and continue to displace thousands of families.
The government must also provide special attention to vulnerable groups like the elderly, women, especially those who are pregnant, children, and the sick. Relief assistance for example should include sanitary napkins and female-only latrines for women; maintenance medicines, and care for elderly and the differently-able who have less ability to cope with life at temporary shelters.
Oxfam has also found that some families in Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan cannot go back to their homes just yet and might wait for at least a month for the flood waters to subside.
“Aside from emergency and relief operations, the national government must look into the rehabilitation of these displaced families. There might be a need to put up emergency livelihoods projects to be able to sustain these families as they rebuild their lives after this. In the long-term, relocation for these families to areas out of harm’s way and which have viable livelihood options must be seriously pursued,” said del Rosario.
For more information or to talk to the Oxfam spokesperson, Paul del Rosario, please contact Glenn Maboloc, media officer, at +63928-504-2911.