CEBU is not yet fully ready for another super storm like Yolanda, Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (PDRRM) head Baltazar Tribunalo admitted.

But he is confident that one year after Yolanda struck northern towns in the province, the Cebuanos’ readiness is improving.

“Physically dili. Kung imong mga stocks not enough, gub-on gihapon ang atong structures, buildings, atong classrooms, atong mga balay (Without sufficient stocks, a storm like that would still destroy our buildings, classrooms and houses),” he said.

He added: “We will make up for it with an early warning system and preparedness.”

Capitol’s executive department is asking for P121.9 million in the 2015 budget to execute a disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) plan.

It covers three major items: disaster prevention and mitigation, with a proposed P40-million budget; preparedness, P45.48 million; and P36.42 million for quick response.

Yolanda’s toll

According to the Cebu Province Rehabilitation Recovery and Development Plan, Yolanda affected at least 14,420 families or 57,680 individuals when it pummeled northern Cebu exactly a year ago.

It destroyed 9,499 houses and damaged 5,869 others, and wiped out P44.41 million worth of public infrastructure and P50.7 million in people’s means of livelihood.

Several mayors in the typhoon-hit areas said the calamity taught them not to take disaster preparedness for granted.

Madridejos Municipal Mayor Salvador Dela Fuente recalled how difficult it was to clear the roads of fallen trees, power lines and posts because the town lacked heavy equipment.

“It seemed like it was the end of the world,” dela Fuente told Sun.Star Cebu.

Now, he said, the town is better prepared.

Shelter

From this year’s P2.2-million budget for DRRM, the executive department is proposing a P2.8-million budget for 2015, most of which will be used to buy communication devices and heavy equipment.

Madridejos is a fifth-class municipality in the island of Bantayan. It can be reached by boat from Cebu City via Sta. Fe town or by land from Cebu City to Hagnaya wharf and then by ferry to Sta. Fe. From Sta. Fe, one takes a bus to reach Madridejos.

Just like in Madridejos, Sta. Fe Mayor Jose Esgana emphasized that they will focus more on disaster preparedness, especially on training at least one person per household.

The mayor said they also want to build a warehouse that may also serve as an evacuation center. After typhoon Yolanda ravaged the island, up to 3,000 injured residents were taken to the town’s sports complex, where they were treated, he said.

The municipal hall housed at least 1,000 people on the night before typhoon Yolanda struck.

For his part, Bantayan Mayor Ian Christopher Escario said the town prioritized the repair of the classrooms in every barangay, because these also serve as evacuation centers.

“The government has no facility in the island where people can hide during typhoons,” Escario said.

Started

Former San Francisco mayor Alfredo Arquillano said it’s good to know that at least the mayors have started programs on disaster preparedness.

“It is still a long process, but at least, they started it through awareness,” he said.

During his term, San Francisco won the United Nations Sasakawa Award for Disaster Risk Reduction in 2011. He is now the president of the Regional Center of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development-Cebu, a non-stock, non-profit corporation working on poverty alleviation and education for sustainable development.

Disaster preparedness, he said, is a matter of leadership, but the local chief executives are still focused on response, not on prevention.

He also emphasized the importance of collaboration between the people and private groups in preparing for calamities.

For the Province, the preparations include a proposal to organize communication centers in the north, south and central parts of the island.

Some P13 million was requested for the purchase of rescue equipment, which Tribunalo will be stationed in different districts before a storm.

Doing best

The 2015 PDRRM Plan also proposed the purchase of shelter kits and tents worth P5 million; an emergency response vehicle for PDRMMO worth P2.5 million; an ambulance for P7 million; solid waste management compactor for areas vulnerable to flood, for P7 million; and P5 million for sea ambulances.

About 30 percent of the fund will be intended for “preparedness, prevention and mitigation,” Tribunalo said.

The other 30 percent will be for relief materials.

“I think most of the local governments naningkamot na gyud sila (they are doing their best),” Tribunalo said, to get a DRRM officer and a good plan in place.

But one of the biggest challenges, said Ben Frederick Rodriguez, disaster management officer of the Bogo City Government, is that some families still refuse to leave their houses despite warnings.

“We have a perennial problem,” he said. “Kaning attitude sa tawo nga bisan unsaon pa ug sulti nga delikado, dili mopatuo. Unya na molihok kung ulahi na (Most people won’t heed warnings. They’ll only respond when it’s too late).”