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Rough Cuts | Time to build a culture of preparedness

The just exited storm Ambo, no doubt, devastated a huge area in the Eastern Visayas and Eastern to Northern Luzon where it struck the strongest.

It has virtually paralyzed the economic activities of several provinces and cities after the power generation and distribution facilities were destroyed rendering the areas affected almost without electricity for about three days.

Even the most important structure in the Bicol Region in this time of the deadly global pandemic brought about by the Corona Virus Disease (CoViD 19) was not spared. Yes, a building housing the CoViD testing and assessment equipment for suspected CoViD 19 infected individuals was destroyed by the storm.

But in spite of the already cataclysmic situation under existing health emergencies further exacerbated by the typhoon, one welcome report is the confirmation that Ambo registered a ZERO casualty in terms of lives lost in the areas it badly hit. That is, as far as the strong winds, rains, and floods it brought. Of course there was one death due to electrocution. And while the downing of the poles carrying the live wire may have been due to the typhoon, the accident could have easily been avoided by the victim if he were more careful in making movements during the height of the strong winds. But of course, personally we know a zero casualty during typhoons can happen in Albay and the rest of the affected areas. The location of the provinces and cities being in the typhoon path already made it the norm for local government units there to be wary of all kinds of disasters rearing their ugly heads. Yes, you name all other disasters other than the always restless Mt. Mayon volcano and Mt. Bulosan located in Albay and Sorsogon, respectively, the Ambo-affected regions have them all. Because of this the provinces in those regions have already institutionalized the Public Safety and Security Department in its local government units (LGUs) personnel structure. In fact we personally know the guy who pioneered in Albayss disaster preparedness and management program, Dr. Cedric Daep. We were fellow trainees in several seminars sponsored by both local and international organizations focusing on disaster preparedness, mitigation, response management, including handling crisis communications.

Hence, being prepared for any calamity is already the norm in Albay. And we can assume without fear of contradiction, that the same is true in other areas of Regions 5, 4-A, Cagayan Provinces, and even the Ilocos region. In fact then Albay governor and now congressman again Joey Salceda could not have said it better when he told reporters of GMA television that the province is creating a culture of preparedness against any and all calamities in order to survive.

It is apparent that the local government of Albay and the rest of the Pacific rim areas in Luzon succeeded in their culture of preparedness building. But that is only insofar as calamities like typhoons, floods, earthquakes, or even tsunamis, are concerned.

What the LGUs in those regions did not anticipate in their preparedness challenge was the onset of the CoViD 19. And quite reasonably because if countries, not just the Philippines but the rest of the world including the two most powerful economically and militarily, were caught flat-footed when CoViD 19 crash-landed, how much more for the LGUs in that eastern section of our country?

And how about our own Davao City; how far has the LGU moved in crafting a disaster preparedness and response plan? We surmise that the disaster preparedness and response management plan is already in place. But we are certain it does not include preparedness methodologies in health emergency so massive, wide-spread, health debilitating and economically devastating as CoViD 19.

We are hoping that after the CoViD 19 pandemic shall have slowed down or may be arrested with a vaccine, the mayor shall immediately order a comprehensive review of the disaster preparedness plan to include lessons learned from the CoViD 19 health pandemic in the framework.

One very experienced and credible resource person the city can invite during the review is Dr. Sonny Jegillos of the United Nations Disaster Preparedness Unit.

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