"The importance of having high quality and calamity-proof infrastructures cannot be more emphasized in this Build, Build, Build era."
Typhoon “Kammuri” or Bagyong
“Tisoy,” classified as a Category 4 hurricane, made landfall in Sorsogon early this week. Thousands were forced to flee from their homes and take refuge in evacuation centers in the Bicol Region. Quezon province was not spared.
The Provincial Government of Quezon, together with the Quezon Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, our local officials and the police, immediately took measures to preemptively evacuate residents in high-risk areas, particularly the low-lying areas, coastal areas and near the rivers. The DSWD and the Provincial Social Welfare Office provided food packs and medicines that have been distributed to evacuees. Our local officials went around their respective municipalities before the battering rains and made inspections of the roads, buildings, coastal areas and landslide-prone areas. Meeting after meeting, we were kept up to date about the status of the typhoon and the conditions of the people awaiting the end of the heavy rains.
We live in a country prone to typhoons. At an average, 20 typhoons enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility annually. PAGASA has identified the average frequent tracks of tropical cyclones which cross the country. The monthly tracks show that the middle part of the country is most often hit.
Time and again, I have emphasized the need for better disaster preparedness measures in the country. Preparation does not come a day before, nor a week before. It starts with long-term planning, even before building infrastructures and laying out the groundwork. It starts with identifying vulnerable and priority areas and efficient solutions that will prevent and address any untoward incidents that may lead to loss of lives and property. Countries such as the US and those in the Latin America and the Caribbean have also been devastated by natural disasters, but they did come to a turning point where they took drastic measures and shifted their focus on comprehensive mitigation policies to prevent such disasters from causing innumerable human and economic losses.
Disaster risk reduction management should really be all about the purposeful management of our resources to mitigate the risks and prevent fatalities and losses during natural disasters. We are fortunate that immediate assistance was given by the DPWH and DSWD. Relief goods were sent to the province a day before heavy rains poured in. Personnel from the DPWH were on site early in the morning to remove fallen trees and posts on main roads. I take this as a sign that we are improving in responding immediately to these situations. However, prevention is always better than cure. Preparation is still the key.
In my past articles, I have promoted the adoption of calamity-proof infrastructures in both government and private sectors. The aftermath of typhoons often leave us with damaged buildings, roads, bridges, fallen posts, and dangling electric wires. Earthquakes even brought worse scenarios. Hence, the importance of having high quality and calamity-proof infrastructures cannot be more emphasized in this Build, Build, Build era. We must make good use of this opportunity by funding and adopting quality calamity-proof designs and construction.
Ultimately, the government needs to implement measures to protect the welfare of our people during times of natural calamities. We need more evacuation centers, trained emergency personnel, and necessary equipment that will aid us in responding to emergency situations. More than that, given the current configuration of our cities and municipalities, we need to identify key areas needing change, such as residential settlements in landslide-prone areas, those in coastal areas where storm surge occurs, or those living in small islands which may be swept away by rising water levels. We need to establish sustainable residential settlements that will ensure the safety of the people.
Apart from structural damage, natural calamities also bring in devastation of farmlands, resulting in immense agricultural losses. Bagyong
“Tisoy” destroyed almost all of our crops. While the province is prepared to provide assistance, the government’s aid to our farmers is crucial at this time. To my mind, post-calamity rehabilitation entails not only building sturdier infrastructure and prudent residential planning. It must include responsive and immediate livelihood plans. As a long-term and sustainable solution, research is needed on more resilient crops and cost-effective farming.
We cannot avoid natural disasters, but we can plan and prepare for them.