In Benguet, lessons on disaster preparednessBy Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A Canadian program aims to make disaster preparedness “a way of life” in one of the country’s most hazard-prone provinces.
The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI), which is run by the Canadian Embassy in the Philippines, is supporting a disaster preparedness training in schools.
To be conducted by the nongovernment organization, People’s Initiative for Learning and Community Development (PILCD), the program aims to empower Benguet’s school communities to cope with calamities.
“Equipping teachers and students with knowledge and skills to respond to natural disasters can minimize property damage and loss of lives,” says a Canadian Embassy statement.
“The education sector has a key role [to play] to prevent hazards from becoming disasters. DRR (disaster risk reduction) in education equips people with knowledge and skills, so that hazards cause the least possible loss of human life and inflict as little damage and destruction as possible,” PILCD program coordinator Marivic Patawaran says.
Under the program, Benguet teachers and school administrators train elementary and high school students in disaster risk reduction and management techniques, including closely monitoring weather bulletins and storm warnings.
“With an eye to the future, schools also integrate lessons on climate change, waste segregation and pollution and their consequent effects. The project teaches the values of environmental protection and a keen sense of proactive planning for disasters to avoid the unnecessary loss of lives and property when these calamities strike,” adds the Canadian Embassy statement.
Benguet is listed as one of five Philippine provinces with a “very high risk” of being hit by earthquakes and landslides, according to the Manila Observatory’s 2005 disaster vulnerability study, the embassy points out.
The province has suffered heavy flooding caused by typhoons in the last decade.
“That is why disaster management should not be a choice but should be a way of life,” says Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan in a statement.
Natural disasters annually damage—if not destroy—critical school resources, from classrooms and school furniture to computers and books.
Schools also serve as evacuation centers for families displaced by disaster, prolonging the disruption of regular classes.
Citing figures from the Department of Education, PILCD says typhoons caused some P3 billion in damage in about 5,600 buildings in Southern Luzon in 2006 alone.