(PAGASA 24-HOUR PUBLIC WEATHER FORECAST as of Friday, 01 March 2024) Northeast Monsoon affecting Luzon. Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, will experience partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rainshowers or thunderstorms due to Easterlies/Localized Thunderstorms. Possible flash floods or landslides during severe thunderstorms. Moderate to strong winds coming from Northeast to East will prevail with moderate to rough seas (1.2 to 2.8 meters).


Thursday, 3 August 2023

Strengthening disaster resilience in Caraga

By Renelle L. Escuadro

At crack of dawn on July 1, 2023, the sound of the siren at the Butuan City Sports Complex in Libertad, Butuan City signaled the kick off of this year’s National Disaster Resilience Month (NDRM) which bared the theme, Bidang Pilipino: Building A Stronger Filipino Well-Being Towards Disaster Resilience,” through the Run for Resilience.

As a nationwide mandate anchored on Executive Order 29 series of 2017, Caraga is one of the regions in the country that commenced a timely public reminder in the significant observance of the NDRM 2023, as spearheaded by the Caraga Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) under the strong leadership of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Caraga.

As severely hit by a category 5 Super Typhoon Odette, the experience and lessons raised the bar on the understanding and comprehension of disaster resilience among Caraganons.

“I would like to consider the definition of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) on disaster resilience as the ability of individuals or people and institutions not just to stand up from calamity, but rather to bounce back and become better. Such as a light material house destroyed by a typhoon, when we help rebuild it, we do not anymore use the same light materials or this household will experience the same trauma when another typhoon will come. Instead, we progressively rebuild a typhoon-proof structure made of bricks and better materials, through the help and assistance of the stakeholders, “Dir. Mazo made a good point during the Usapang Resilience, in a recent episode of the Kapihan with PIA Caraga at SM City Butuan.

The Usapang Resilience was a full house attendance of the members of the RDRRMC and each of them shared how the calamities and emergencies have continuously transformed and nurtured them and their teams to perform better and deliver more to the public through sustaining best practices, initiatives, innovations, among others on the four thematic areas of DRRM namely, disaster prevention and mitigation; disaster preparedness;  disaster response; and disaster rehabilitation and recovery,  to safeguard lives and properties.

Project TAMING

The province of Agusan del Norte took the lead in DRRM in the region, as the recipient of the prestigious “Beyond Compliant” award with an equivalent rating of 2.91 at the 22nd Gawad Kalasag (GK) Seal National Awarding Ceremonies on December 7, 2022 at the Manila Hotel in Manila City.

The GK is a performance assessment mechanism and instrument that reinforces the commitment and support of stakeholders towards the enhancement of their DRRM programs by recognizing their exceptional contributions in strengthening the resilience and capacities of the communities.

“As we all know, wala gid tay makuha nga baseline data nga basehan sa ato planning ug legislation sa Agusan del Norte nga makatabang ug palig-on sa ato local DRRM. [we do not have baseline data to use for our planning and legislation in Agusan del Norte to strengthen our local DRRM],” an honest statement of Erma Suyo, chief PDRRMO of the said province.

To address the challenge, the said office developed the Project Taming or Technologically-based Assessment and Management Information for Natural Geo-hazards, a dream database which will collect household demographics and critical infra data which are needed and vital for DRRM. The system is user friendly and will be utilized by local government units, partners and stakeholders in their planning, law-making, project implementation, and more.

Engr. Rodel Tagupa of the Operations and Warning Division of the Agusan del Norte PDRRMO,  who is one of the authors and developers of the system revealed that,  “ with this innovation in DRRM, we know every household member, their locations and the specific hazardous areas in every local government unit in the province hence, we can identify the assistance needed and monitor  their status, so LGUs can properly plan prior to the forecast weather disturbance and the inevitable disaster, and they can give appropriate actions and systematic response to avoid casualties.”

“The system is already up and we have all the complete information in the province. This will be launched to the public soon as we are still currently working on its long-term functionality,” Engr. Tagupa added.

Empowering LGUs

On the other hand, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the vice chair under disaster response, continues to empower the local government units in the region as the first responders during the onset of disaster to handle immediate relief assistance to affected individuals and families through prepositioning of food and non- food packs.

“For the first semester of this year, we have 17 LGUs in the region that have prepositioning of food and non-food packs. We are closely working on increasing the LGUs for this second semester.” according to Melanie Juan, chief Disaster Response Management Division of DSWD Field Office Caraga.

The Department has mobilized its leadership in the region to get the buy-in of these remaining LGUs and require them to secure their respective warehouse for the prepositioning of humanitarian cargo to make them all-time ready for augmentation in times of disasters and emergencies.

“DSWD continues to provide augmentation assistance once resources of the LGU will deplete especially due to limited national tax allotment (NTA). Our offices have a mandatory 50,000 stockpile which will be released if there is a request from affected LGU,” elaborated by Juan.

Weather habit

Engr. Ver Lancer Galanida, chief meteorological officer of the Department of Science and Technology- Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (DOST-PAGASA), took advantage of the Kapihan with PIA Caraga, and shared the region's seasonal weather update. He bared that the El Niño phenomenon is now observed in the tropical pacific ocean.

"A potential dry spell drought outlook is being forecast by the end of October 2023. This will end by the 2nd quarter of 2024. So with this, there will be a great impact of the rainfall," he said.

Moreover, Engr. Galanida appealed to the public to be mindful of the weather update. He emphasized to make it a habit to read the weather updates everyday as this will bring us closer to safety.

Communication and contingency

Super Typhoon Odette tested the country’s readiness when communication was removed in awe. Telephone lines and the internet were not working. The restoration of communication took longer than electricity and water.

Dir. Mazo cited the help of the ‘very small aperture terminal’ (VSAT) system which was installed like in Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte, a paradise destroyed by STY Odette, so the DRMM team could keep their lines open  and execute response, recovery and rehabilitation.

As defined, VSAT is a two-way satellite ground station with a dish antenna that is smaller than 3.8 meters. The majority of VSAT antennas range from 75 cm to 1.2 m. Bit rates, in most cases, range from 4 kbit/s up to 16 Mbit/s.

Satellite phones were effective at that time, including the Government Emergency Communications System – Mobile Operations Vehicle for Emergencies (GECS-MOVE) of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) .

A  GECS-MOVE unit is composed of the following: 1)hub – a self-contained mobile operations and coordination center housed in a customized heavy-duty truck equipped with an integrated communications system where a crew of emergency telecommunications cluster (ETC) experts can live and sleep;  2)dispatch - a self-sustained connectivity hub installed in a heavy-duty off-road vehicle which helps extend the reach of the Hub into disaster zone;  3) Off-road motorcycle equipped with communications equipment. This supports the crew in reaching deeper into remote, inaccessible terrain and mountain top with VHF equipment; and lastly 4) Two heavy-duty drones to further extend connectivity.

Also, Engr. Tagupa spotlighted the relevance of reviving and strengthening radio communication and be made available up to the barangay level as not to hamper grassroots communication especially during disaster. This was appreciated in the province of Agusan del Norte when STY Odette disrupted tele and digital communications. 

These reliable and contingency structures supported the coordination among DRRM, the government, private sector, partners and other stakeholders for the life-saving interventions. 

According to the Global Climate Risk Index of 2020, the Philippines, as situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, explains its frequent earthquakes.  The country is prone to natural calamities with an average of 20 typhoons in a year as it is also located in the typhoon belt of the Pacific.

It is in the certainty of calamities that we find the value of disaster resilience and we recover as better versions after the storm.  (RLE,PIA-Caraga)

#PIAcaraga                                                                                                                                    #NDRM2023                                                                                                                      #CaragaRDRRMC