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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Editorial: Building typhoon-resilience

FOR a country that sits across the typhoon belt, the story of the three little pigs should resonate with an impact beyond the morality created by a childhood fable.

The first pig built his house with straw; the second one, with sticks; and the third, with bricks. Only the last pig’s house withstood the attack of a wolf that “huffed and puffed” to blow each house down to eat the pigs inside.

According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), the country is directly in the path of an average of 28 storms or typhoons that enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) every year, based on statistics analyzed by the agency from 1948 to 2004.

Disaster-proofing

The 2013 devastation left by Super Typhoon Yolanda remains unrivalled. According to the April 3, 2014 situational report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Yolanda left at least 6,200 dead, 28,600 injured, thousands of bodies unrecovered under mud and rubble, and affected almost 16 million people in 591 towns and 57 cities in 44 of the country’s 80 provinces.

The NDRRMC also reported that 550,900 houses were destroyed and 589,4000 were damaged.

How do Filipinos move on, faced with the predictability of calamities?

With creativity and communal will

This is the response made by a nongovernment organization that is constructing in Bantayan Island dwellings that tap appropriate technology and guarantee resilience and sustainability.

According to a Sun.Star Cebu July 28 special report written by Flornisa Marie M. Gitgano and edited by Cherry Ann T. Lim, the Damgo sa Kaugmaon (Dream for the Future) Inc. produces “Interlocking Compressed Earth Blocks (ICEB) that can be used by the community in building structures to keep them safe in the next disasters.”

The ICEBs are designed to resist a 7.2-magnitude earthquake and wind speed of up to 200 kph, according to Architect Jonathan Brigham, technical delegate in the Philippines for Shelter of Caritas Humanitarian Aid Department.

Adding to the durability of the ICEBs is its affordability and sustainability. The production uses local materials, relies on generally manual production, and provides livelihood to local residents. The Damgo Earth Blocks are used by the international NGO Caritas Switzerland to construct 1,200 houses in Yolanda-hit Madridejos and Kinatarcan Island in Santa Fe.

Self-help

Aside from its many uses, the Damgo Earth Blocks are proof that social enterprise can be a sustainable approach to build resilience, which taps a person’s internal and external resources to rebound from disaster, as well as anticipates and tries to prevent greater harm and losses from calamities by mobilizing communities.

Community-based responses are the quickest and the most sustainable of approaches to enable people to recover their bearings and move on from calamities. While post-Yolanda rehabilitation was initially estimated to require massive funds, a November 2014 assessment by the government later revealed that “money is not a problem… but the assessment, preparation, execution, and delivery (of aid),” reported the GMA News Online on Jan. 16, 2015.

Challenges, though, await the Damgo sa Kaugmaon Inc. and other stakeholders. Despite its durability and affordability, the ICEB is still not widely used in Bantayan Island.

Mindsets are not just blinded by lack of knowledge but also conflicts of interest. According to the Sun.Star Cebu special report, the Damgo sa Kaugmaon Inc. officials are stymied in their efforts to promote the ICEB among local hardware owners whose interests are best served by selling concrete hollow blocks (CHBs) that are less durable and more expensive.

Even government school buildings and dwellings constructed after Yolanda still use CHBs. Unfazed, the Damgo sa Kaugmaon Inc. officials plan to push their advocacy with other ecological advocates. This is one dream that needs to be realized.
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