ArchivesAugust 2010Albay Guv shares secrets of disaster risk reduction

Albay Guv shares secrets of disaster risk reduction


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LEGAZPI CITY, ALBAY — The challenge of adapting to Climate Change may be difficult for many local chief executives but for the affable Albay Gov.Joey Salceda, all it takes is a lot of common sense.{{more}}

“We’re the only province with no casualty during the recent typhoons because we’re the only province to issue a no-sail order. 90 percent of deaths during typhoons were caused by drowning at sea. So the solution is simple,” Salceda told the visiting members of the Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists.

Albay, which has been pioneering in programs that would lessen the worsening impact of global warming through mitigation programs as well as in educating the community to take care of the environment, was declared a Champion Climate Change Steward by the United Nations last June.
Salceda, who has been credited for weaving the successful economic policies of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, weaves around the government bureaucracy in implementing this pioneering program.

The secret, he reveals, is in how you position yourself. “This is the Republic of Albay. We behave like a republic. I look at the Philippines like the European Union and we’re like Switzerland.”

Imagination, after all, is what Salceda has a lot of as he steers his province into largely unchartered waters.
For instance, part of the efforts of the provincial government to reduce the incidences of child mortality is to educate the people on family planning.

“If we want to lessen child mortality, we should also teach the people how not to have children,” Salceda said. At 1.4 percent, Albay already has a low population growth rate. And the number may even go down further.

Among the many awards Albay is expected to receive this year are the citations for having the best Provincial and City Disaster Coordination Councils in the country.

Lessons learned from recent disasters indicate that Filipinos need social preparation in order to effectively respond to disasters. “Nobody can match the intensity and consistency and the passion of the entire Albay province in terms of social preparation,” Salceda boasts. And rightly so.

“Our people are well-trained and well advised. They know the vulnerabilities. That is a common threat that binds us as a community. We know we are vulnerable to disaster but we can do something about it,” he said.

“Half of the fatalities during typhoon Ondoy did not have to die,” Salceda said, as he noted that people seemed unmindful of the danger and went ahead to do what they did.
“They knew it was flooding, they waded just the same. There was a flood, but the people insisted on driving through it. They went up their roofs but they did not even bring water, food, or clothing. They could have starved to death. They needed social preparation.”

Albay is no exception to the lack of funds and to go around this problem, Salceda turns to external funding partners.
Last Thursday, the Province of Albay received a P480 million grant from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) for the construction of six multi-storey permanent evacuation centers which would also serve as classrooms.

Salceda says the project is the biggest single investment in disaster mitigation in the country.

“Jica’s financial grant is the single biggest assistance given by the Japanese government in addressing the province’s “zero casualty” goal in times of disaster such as during eruptions of Mayon Volcano, flooding, lahar flows and landslides,” Salceda adds.

Another secret to assuring zero casualty rates in times of disasters is to assure the evacuees of support in their evacuation centers so they won’t unnecessarily expose themselves to the natural dangers.

“They are given five kilos of rice in the evacuation centers so they won’t leave,” Salceda says.

Evacuation assistance is their right, Salceda says, as it becomes his duty as governor of the Province.
Albay’s Climate Change protocol is also starting to gain more ground, as the provinces of Saranggani, Pampanga and Sorsogon have replicated the Albay Disaster Management Plan.

It may not be long before the rest of the country does.

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