TACLOBAN CITY -- The Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) presented its ongoing study on the rehabilitation and recovery of typhoon-devastated areas in Leyte and Samar Provinces last Tuesday.

Launched last February, the study aims to guide local government units (LGUs) as they rebuild their communities and prepare for natural disasters.

The Jica discussed the hazard map it created as part of the study for Tacloban City and 17 municipalities during a seminar dubbed “Towards a New Normal.”

Jica Philippines senior representative Eigo Azukizawa said they are conducting the study “to identify quick impact projects and long-term initiatives that will support the rehabilitation of typhoon Yolanda-affected areas.”

Chief executive officers of various LGUs in Leyte and Samar and representatives of different national government agencies participated in the seminar held at the Ritz Tower in Tacloban.

Jica deputy project team leader Kazonuri Inoue, who presented the hazard map, said communities need to know their vulnerabilities and plan their response to disasters.

Focuses

The hazard map Jica developed focuses on storm surge, the reason for most deaths when Yolanda struck last Nov. 8.

By studying the hazard map, Inoue said communities can carry out structural measures like establishing tidal embankment, elevated roads and flood-control dikes; and non-structural measures such as creating early warning systems and relocation and evacuation plans.

“Understanding hazard is very important. If there’s a hazard map, we can discuss mitigation measures,” he said.

The hazard map, he added, will aid LGUs in their land use planning.

During the seminar, officials from Higashimatsushima, one of the cities devastated by the tsunami in Japan in 2011, shared their experience in rebuilding after the catastrophe.

More than 1,100 people were killed when the tsunami struck the city following a strong earthquake.

Apart from conducting a study, Jica is also implementing “quick impact projects” in the communities. These projects include providing livelihood facilities, reconstructing schools and conducting disaster preparedness trainings.

The agency is also giving $46 million to the National Government for the rehabilitation of schools, municipal buildings and medical facilities in the two provinces.

In Leyte, Jica’s project covers Tacloban and the municipalities of Palo, Tanauan, Tolosa, Dulag, Mayorga, Mac Arthur, Javier, and Abuyog. In Samar, it covers the municipalities of Basey, Marabut, Lawaan, Balangiga, Giporlos, Guiuan, Mercedes, Salcedo and Quinapondan.

The agency aims to complete the study and the implementation of the projects by March next year.

Objectives

Azukizawa, in an interview with Sun.Star Cebu, said they focused their effort on Leyte and Samar because these were the areas severely affected by Yolanda.

The typhoon killed more than 6,200, mostly in Leyte and Samar and caused massive devastation across the Visayas.

Inoue said that through the study, Jica hopes to help devastated communities “build back better.”

“Our objectives are to create safer communities, help people get back on their feet and restore the communities’ local economy,” he added.

Azukizawa said the outputs and recommendations of the study need to be “continually enhanced.”

“We at Jica cannot overemphasize the importance of developing the tools for hazard mapping and rehabilitation planning even as we continue to learn the lessons in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda,” he said.

Leyte Gov. Leopoldo Dominico Petilla thanked Jica for helping provide knowledge on how to rehabilitate devastated communities.

Apart from rebuilding infrastructures, Petilla said restoring education and livelihood should also be a priority.

“We should not forget that rehabilitation is not only about reconstructing buildings. It is also about providing education and jobs.

These things not only rehabilitate communities, but also rehabilitate the spirit of the people,” he said, addressing the seminar’s participants.

Evaluation

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) 8 Director Pedro Noval said the outputs Jica shared will be considered as LGUs rebuild their communities and prepare for future disasters.

“This sharing will greatly guide us in coming up with a what-to-do list in disaster preparedness,” he told the participants.

Noval said the DILG 8 and the United Nations Development Program are working together to develop the capacity of LGUs to respond to disasters.

They are also evaluating the LGUs’ capacity to deliver basic services after the typhoon.

In his closing remarks, Azukizawa urged all stakeholders to work together for the full recovery of affected communities.

“I’m quite sure we all understand that this discussion will mean nothing if we don’t exert the collective effort needed not only for post-Yolanda recovery but also in adapting to what we refer to as the new normal,” he said.