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DOST pushes for community participation in disaster preparedness

By Aerol B. Patena

MANILA, April 28 (PNA) — The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is advocating for community involvement in disaster preparedness.

In an interview with the Philippines News Agency, DOST Assistant Secretary and Science and Technology Information Institute (STII) Director Raymond Liboro stressed that active public participation is vital for an effective disaster response.

"The country needs more proactive leaders on disaster response at it faces an increasing frequency of natural disasters," Liboro said.

According to him, disaster response leaders should have the quality of disaster imagination — the capability to anticipate the impact of natural disasters and implement strategies that can avert loss of lives and property.

"People should not always depend on their governors, mayors or any other local officials for action when disaster strikes. Community leaders, through their own initiative, may implement information campaign to residents on the impact of natural disasters and educate them on what to do during typhoons, earthquakes, or landslides," he said.

He encouraged closer coordination between the local government and its constituents in implementing drills on emergency response, issuing early warnings, and immediate evacuation of residents.

Community leaders should also be able to increase local risk knowledge, know how to monitor risk hazards, test warning protocols in communities and plan for response to be effective in preparing for disasters.

The DOST official cited the example of Tulang Diyot Island, located off the municipality of San Francisco in Camotes Islands, Cebu province, that recorded no casualties despite massive damage inflicted on its infrastructure, buildings, and houses brought about by the onslaught of typhoon "Yolanda" last November.

A day before the typhoon made landfall on the island, the local government unit immediately had a meeting after the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) issued its warning and decided to evacuate all its residents.

Immediately, residents followed the decision of the local government, packed up their belongings and relocated to the next higher ground — the San Francisco town proper.

The achievement was attributed to a "purok system" which was conceptualized by former Mayor Alfredo Arquillano Jr.

The system involves organization and coordination among citizen and civil society groups in disseminating information on natural disasters, regular drills on disaster preparedness, funding for disaster risk reduction and building infrastructure that is resilient to the impact of climate change.

Although he is no longer active in government service, Arquillano remains involved in the implementation of disaster preparedness measures on the island.

"This is an example of disaster response leadership that we are looking into our communities. Even though you do not hold positions of authority, you can still take part in ensuring that your community is safe from disasters," he stressed.

The DOST assured that it will continue to provide scientific tools such as flood models, high resolution weather maps, flood hazard maps, among others, to boost the capability of local government units to deal with disasters.

"Science-based information is very vital in ensuring the sustainability of communities amidst the disasters and calamities they are facing," he said. (PNA)

SCS/ABP

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