AS El Niño bows out in various provinces in the Philippines, the Municipality of Bantayan, through the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (MDRRMO), prepares for the incoming typhoon season by conducting a series of evacuation drills in nine selected communities.
Bantayan was among the hardest hit by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013 and since then, local leaders have taken active steps to make sure that the risk of a typhoon with the same intensity are minimized through preparedness efforts.
Lolita Santillan remembers typhoon Yolanda all too well. At the onset of the typhoon, she welcomed three of her neighbors and their families to her home where they sought refuge for three days before relief came.
“There were 13 people in my house and it was a good thing we were able to prepare food beforehand, at least we had something to survive on for three days before relief started to come in our barangay,” she recalled.
She said that back then, they didn’t heed the warnings of the local officials because everything felt familiar and they have never experienced a typhoon they could not withstand.
“The wind was only similar to Habagat (southwest monsoon) so we stayed put. Our house didn’t get destroyed but after the typhoon, after we checked our area, we saw that my neighbors have lost their homes. I learned we risked so much by staying behind,” she said.
Today, two years after Yolanda, she is one of the many locals who actively participated in the evacuation orientation and drill led by their community leaders and the MDRRMO.
Lolita was only one of almost 80 participants in the community drill which drew in women, children and even the elderly who carried with them their own survival kits. Lolita herself carried with her a used rice sack with all her essentials including documents, utensils, rice, canned goods, noodles, soap, a candle and some clothes.
Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Research and Planning Officer Oscar Bayan-on said that the drills are an important first-step towards community resilience against hazards and typhoons.
“There are 25 barangays in Bantayan and we hope that we can conduct evacuation drills in all of them. Today, we see some lapses, but that’s the thing about drills, we learn from the lapses and hopefully, next time around we can perfect it,” he explained.
The MDRRMO has earlier conducted Emergency Response Trainings (ERT) to representatives from the various barangays in Bantayan. Despite having substantial budget allocation for DRR, Bayan-on said the main challenge in the areas where they work is that there is still lack of awareness and political will to implement DRR activities and projects.
He hopes that the incoming administration can really push for the effective implementation of DRR projects.
The Evacuation Orientation and Drill, conducted from May 16-23, 2016, in different barangays in Bantayan, is part of the Phased Approach to Total Sanitation (PhATS) program implemented by Islamic Relief in partnership with UNICEF.
PhATS aims for communities (including schools) to improve water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) practices and pushes for WASH to become an active component of municipal and community-level development plans including DRR. (PR)