Disaster-proofing Davao Oriental

TO DISASTER-PROOF an entire province, the local government must take the lead in ensuring mitigation and adaptation measures are in place.

Since Davao Oriental can no longer claim to be typhoon-free, the province has revisited its Provincial Development and Physical Framework Plan to better equip its municipalities when worse comes to worst.

The Provincial Government worked with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) where both have found a common ground that Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation (DRRCCA) should be integrated in the local development planning.

The plan involves data updating, land-use modification and rezonification so that the areas determined as not so sound for habitation will be off limits to people.

"And as our firm commitment, the province is helping LGUs (local government units) to chart out their respective Municipal Comprehensive Land Use Plan while mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation measures in their respective development plans," said Governor Corazon Malanyaon, in her speech during a recent forum.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) 11 has helped the province along with Department of Science and Technology (DOST) 11 and Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) to map out the geo-hazard areas, which is now followed in the establishment of resettlements.

The government is also working on restoring the province's environmental resources, particularly the programs on mangrove rehabilitation, coastal cleanup, dumpsite development and watershed rehabilitation.

When Pablo made landfall, it flattened most of Baganga, Cateel and Boston municipalities, leaving 457 deaths, 3,020 injured, 64,032 families affected, and P5.846 billion in government infrastructures, private structures and properties lost on its wake.

Also, the rich agriculture, tourism, trade, and service sectors incurred P8.5 billion damages while 30 percent of its coral resources were lost and 132,105 hectares of forest lands were destroyed.

With the plan now in place, at least the province can cushion the impact of typhoons, the same intensity or even stronger than Typhoon Pablo that wreaked havoc the province on December 4, 2012.

rRehab on track

With the means of livelihood destroyed, the province sought out the intervention of Department of Agriculture (DA)-Davao to help affected families get back on their feet.

The programs that were implemented include extension of 100 percent rice seed subsidy to more than 8,000 farmers in Baganga, Cateel, and Boston for a total area of 9,876 hectares, provision of seeds for corn production benefitting more than 7,000 farmers, and provision of seeds for vegetable production.

Also, part of the intervention was the distribution of cacao seedlings in the towns of Boston and Cateel benefiting almost 2,000 farmers, and seedlings for cassava production in affected towns to 5,742 farmers covering a total of 430 hectares.

On the housing, a total of 6,729 families received temporary shelters and emergency shelter kits containing basic construction tools and materials.

"These were provided by convergence of various local and international agencies under the Shelter Cluster. Meanwhile, the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), who aside from constructing bunk houses as temporary shelters also helped bring aid to families whose houses were partially damaged through the distribution of Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) in the form of cash," she reported.

The first and second releases amounted to P158.7 million, which benefited around 15,881 households.

Transition shelters were also put in place for a total of 5,359 families.

"These shelters not only provided our people with the most basic comforts of a home, but mainly protected them especially from health risks due to poor hygienic conditions in congested emergency shelters," she said.

The governor added that there were close to 10,000 permanent homes completed and undergoing construction under the Modified Shelter Assistance Program of the provincial government and DSWD.

"No less than 5,000 construction workers, that include masons, carpenters, painters, plumbers, have been employed in the implementation of this massive housing project," she said.

Rise of hot chili

Jose P. Calub, officer-in-charge of Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-Davao Oriental, during the DTI-Davao Media Interface at the Marco Polo Hotel Davao on Friday, said they are supporting eight major chili producers in Davao Oriental.

"Nakita namo na resilient ang (We saw that chili is more resilient) compared to other crops during typhoon," he said.

Right now, they are in the thick of things in helping these producers comply with the requirements to secure a certification from Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).

"So that when the Asean Community takes effect, our chili producers are ready," he said.

In Davao Oriental, most of the focus is centered on the three towns hit by Pablo -- Cateel, Baganga, and Boston.

The agency is also set to construct three facilities through the Shared Service Facilities (SSF) that are compliant with the regulations of the FDA.

With this initiative, a total of 1,000 families have benefited from the "Hot Pablo' Livelihood Project covering 100 hectares.

The beneficiaries, comprised of farmers and processors, were assisted in terms of production, skills development, product development marketing and branding.

The trade office has also observed a high local demand for chili, as evident on the sales generated from the trade fairs where processors have actively been participating in.

Last year, chili processors generated P6 million from joining trade fairs.

To address the immediate need of farmers to earn a living, Malanyaon added that livestock and draft animals such as carabao, cattle, goat and chicken were distributed to families.

There were also a series of skills, productivity and entrepreneurial trainings to strengthen livelihood projects such as bamboo (furniture, construction materials and baskets) processing, coco-bead and coco-furniture processing, driftwood furniture and novelties processing, bead making, rubber nursery and hot chili production and processing.

These initiatives were facilitated through the support of some government agencies and Rural Entrepreneurship Advocacy for Change (Reach) program of the Provincial Government.

Other livelihood programs that are currently being pushed are; Driftwood Processing (Boston, Baganga, Cateel); Rosary-making out of coco-beads (Cateel); Carpentry Workshop and Material Recovery Facility (Cateel and Baganga); and Fiber-board Processing Facility (Baganga).

"These livelihood projects under the Debris Management supported more than 11,000 beneficiaries," Malanyaon added.

Given the intensity of damages caused by Pablo in the province, it will take a while before it can get back on its feet.

"Our 'Building-Back-Better' agenda is still a long way to go. But having a solid support from the national government and other development collaborators, and having put in place operational mechanisms, we are positive that we can harness more resources and partners... we can do more... and we can do better in the coming years... Always with that undaunted spirit 'to Move on and to Move up' as our mantra goes," she added.

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