Meet Cedric Daep, Albay’s Mr. Disaster
WHEN Albay province was crippled by devastating typhoons and frequent eruptions of Mayon Volcano during the last 30 years, a man came to introduce ways and means to address their negative impacts.
“Disaster risk management must be part of the governance. It must be part of the planning and the regular activity of the government. With or without calamity, planning should become an internal part of developmental programs,” said Cedric Daep, 56, chief of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (Apsemo).
Daep was the first disaster officer and author of the blueprint that established the disaster management office under a local government unit (LGU), a first in Asia. This earned for Daep the tag Mr. Disaster.
The blueprint gave birth to the “zero-casualty” goal, which means no deaths during catastrophes.
While Daep was the acting provincial development assistant in 1988 and later the concurrent acting administrator of the disaster operation center, he thought of measures to be prepared for disasters, which was implemented with funding from the Italian Development Cooperation.
These measures were part of the pilot disaster preparedness project at the community level meant to reduce the adverse effects of natural disasters.
Daep said when the project was about to end in 1992, he realized that it was necessary to maintain the project but there was a problem on funding.
“Without funding, the project will not be sustained. The disaster operation center will be activated only during calamities, and without permanent staff members and office, disaster operations can’t be sustained,” he stressed.
Since then, he started to conceptualize the proposal on creating a permanent department that would focus on disaster preparedness, disaster response operations, recovery and public safety, and administrative functions.
This idea was formulated in his master’s thesis, which focused on the disaster preparedness of business establishments in Albay and resulted in a recommendation to create the disaster risk management office.
On July 8, 1994, the provincial board supported the establishment of a disaster management office through Resolution No. 155-94.
The support of key government agencies paved the way for the establishment of a permanent Albay Provincial Disaster Management Office, later called the Apsemo.
In 1987, the province suffered from severe damage caused by Typhoon “Sisang” that claimed the lives of 600 people due to drowning, with hundreds injured and missing.
In 1993, after having been devastated by typhoon, the province experienced another eruption of Mayon Volcano, which released voluminous pyroclastic materials that claimed 77 people.
But after the disaster management office was put in place, the province started to aim for zero-casualty goals during calamities.
Since 1995, Daep said the province recorded no casualty in most major disasters or destructive calamities such as during Typhoon “Rosing” in November 1995, Typhoon “Loleng” in November 1998, and Mayon eruptions in February 2000, June 2001 and July 2006.
Typhoon “Reming” in 2006 became an exception because of the onslaught of successive typhoons and volcanic eruption. More than 600 people were killed while more than 400 went missing due to mudslide.
Daep said this catastrophe was caused by failure in communication which resulted to failure of evacuation.
“Most of the people believed that they would not be affected by the mudflow based on their past experiences, but since river systems were completely filled up because of previous typhoons and have no capacity to absorb lahar, it ravaged through the subdivisions and residences. After this, we learned a lesson that after a typhoon, the government must go back to preparedness and another structure created for recovery program,” he said.
Because of these lessons, the province tried to restrengthen its programs, which resulted to the achievement of the main zero-casualty goal from 2007 despite the destructive typhoons and even with another explosive eruption of Mayon Volcano in December 2009 and January 2010.
This goal was maintained until this year.
Daep said from the start, they have devised a module in each of the areas with identified population at risk of flood, landslide, storm surge, mudflow, strong winds and the like.
“These modules were used in making comprehensive contingency plans and programs. We already identified the areas at risk of any disaster that’s why it is easy for us to respond. We see to it that all barangay officials undergo training; every barangay has a separate module,” he said.
Daep said zero-casualty was attained because of the formula they have been following: early warning system, communication protocol and evacuation procedures.
“If we still rely on the previous objective in every disaster which is the ‘relief and rehab operation,’ we can’t fully protect lives,” he added.
“Concentrating on rescue means we are waiting for a victim before we assist. In predisaster activity, you are doing something in order for the population to be free from threat before impact happens,” stressed Daep.
Daep also attributed the success of the Apsemo to the initiatives of the previous and present leaders of the provincial government.
Daep said the creation of the Apsemo was supported by the governors, from Romeo Salalima (1998) to Joey Salceda, who is also known as champion for climate-change adaptation and disaster risk management.
“The calamity in Albay does not consider political boundary,” Daep said.
Service to the community is deeply ingrained in Daep.
In his high school years, he served as an altar boy (sacristan) and joined the church choir in his native Manito town.
“If not because of a scholarship in college, I could have been a priest,” he said.
He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Education from Luzonian University Foundation in Lucena City in Quezon province.
Daep said he got a scholarship after passing the entrance examination.
At 24, he married Eleanor, a native of Daet town in Camarines Norte province.
His eldest son, Ryan Cedric, 32, a metallurgical engineer is now working in the United States; Patrick Joseph, 30, working in a television network; and daughter Hazel Lyn, 26, a registered nurse in Legazpi City.
He gained interest in studying disaster management when he was taking up his master’s degree in Business Administration at Divine Word College of Legazpi, as he correlated the effects of calamities in the economy of the province, in his thesis.
Before he entered government service, in 1983, he worked as socioeconomic coordinator and coordinator for relief and rehabilitation operation of Social Action Center of the Diocese of Legazpi.
In 1984, he initiated the first relocation effort in Albay for victims of Mayon Volcano eruption.
After joining the government, he became an expert because of the special studies and hands-on training in different areas.
He obtained knowledge in meteorology in college, as part of subjects in his course that gave him hands-on experience with the Tayabas Weather station from 1977 to 1978.
He was exposed to volcanology in Shimabara, Japan, and through the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, by studying the behavior of Mayon Volcano.
In Shanghai, China, he also learned about earthquake and seismology in December 2001, and for months, in Bohol for study and humanitarian mission after the 2013 earthquake.
He was also exposed to flood management in Australia’s Macquarie River.
“My knowledge was honed even more through my experiences here in Albay, especially with typhoons, volcanic eruption and flooding,” he said.
For executing best risk reduction practices, the Apsemo, particularly Daep has been recognized nationally and internationally.
The Apsemo has been cited by the Asian Disaster Management Center based in Bangkok, Thailand, as the best model of disaster management in Asia and the world in April 1999.
Aside from several invitations as resource person in various events, Daep also works as consultant of different organizations in other countries.
One of the highlights of their awards is the “Hall of Famer for Gawad Kalasag Award” given by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in 2009, 2010 and 2011 for outstanding programs in disaster preparedness.
They also received the Galing Pook Award from the Department of the Interior and Local Government in 2008 and 2015.
Sharing of expertise
In 2013, the Office of Civil Defense Bicol (OCD) and the Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Training Institute (under the Albay provincial government) started the program in training officials and action officers of different LGUs.
Daep said participants from Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas and Eastern Visayas, invited by the OCD, are being trained in Albay on strategies in disaster preparedness and response.
Officials from other areas who are conducting their study tours in Albay are also given training in the province.
“I’ve been to many provinces to share our strategies, except Palawan. Almost all regions are represented with study tours,” Daep said.
He said the province is very much willing to help other areas.
In 2008, the province, through Salceda, formed “Team Albay” for humanitarian mission, composed of various members coming from different departments of the province and other stakeholders.
So far, Team Albay has responded to a number of major calamities that hit the country, such as during Typhoons “Ondoy” (2009), “Sendong” (2011), “Pablo” (2012) and Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (2013); and the Bohol earthquake (2013).
Despite the challenge in helping other LGUs, he said they would never stop until all provinces have adopted their best strategy in disaster mitigation.
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