JUST recently, the region was not spared with the risk of the natural disasters that now become common phenomena throughout the country given our location as part of the ring of fire in the Asia Pacific region.
The social media Facebook was filled with status of the recent 7.2 earthquake and the flooding cause by intermittent rains due to the trough of low pressure area that hit the region prompting local government units to suspend classes and local executives and DepEd officials issuing warning to low lying areas and those landslide prone locations to take extra care and execute preemptive evacuation to abate injuries and casualties.
It was also during the onslaught of tropical depression “Usman,” that DepEd Secretary Leonor M. Briones emphasized that it is high time for the government and the public to transform the country’s approach to the reduction and management of disaster risks in the face of a continuously changing climate.
Sec. Briones said that in previous years, DepEd schools were damaged by strong winds brought about by tropical cyclones that made us busy preparing for the perfect storm while in Metro Manila for the perfect earthquake. She said that nowadays, we need to better prepare for the perfect flood.
The Secretary presented the emerging challenges in disaster risk reduction and mitigation before fellow members of the Cabinet during a situation briefing last January 4 in Pili, Camarines Sur. Briones said that although “Usman” was technically described as a tropical depression, its resulting floods and landslides left extensive damage to school buildings and facilities in affected areas.
The Education Chief remarked that repair and replacement of damaged facilities due to recent typhoon “Usman,” last year’s typhoon “Ompong,” and typhoon “Rosita” are estimated to exhaust DepEd’s entire P2-billion Quick Response Fund (QRF) for 2019.
She further emphasized that such damage demands huge budget for slope protection, higher elevation, or transfer of building sites. What is adding to the problem of DepEd is that it has funds for site titling but none for site acquisition.
Furthermore, as floods and landslides occur with every typhoons and bad weather conditions these resulted to severe damage to property, facilities, and equipment even without strong winds as measured by warning system. With this, the Secretary also called on the Cabinet to consider the policy implication of this irreversible trend and make the necessary recommendations to the President.
The Secretary mentioned that said ill-fated incidents happened in Guinsaugon [Southern Leyte], Biliran, Leyte, Quezon, Los Baños [Laguna], Cagayan de Oro, and Iligan, as well as in Lanao del Norte, among others.
In the said meeting, the Secretary further proposed the review of protocols for government action before, during, and after natural disasters – case in point is the public mindset of relying on typhoon signals as basis for assessing potential danger to life and property, which needs to be corrected through sustained public communication and education.
Briones is also among those Cabinet members who support the need to revisit the progress on the proposed creation of a separate department on natural disaster.
The Secretary concluded that the financial, organizational, and administrative requirements for dealing with natural disasters cannot be managed by the government alone. She emphasized that all sectors of society have to be mobilized and activated to help ensure the safety of lives and the continuity of education.
This Corner hopes that everyone shall do his part in pursuing a more comprehensive approach to various disasters so that damage to people and properties will be minimized or even eradicated.