Putting a clamp on mining and logging, installing adequate warning systems and response mechanisms and implementing a massive reforestation program are key measures Western Visayas leaders have committed to undertake at the end of their Summit on Disaster Risk Reduction and Multi-Hazard Awareness in Bacolod City recently, a report from Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III’s office said yesterday.
Pimentel, convenor of the summit, yesterday lauded the Western Visayas leaders for throwing their full support behind another unified and consolidated effort to mitigate if not entirely prevent natural and man-made calamities to again hit their communities, a press release from the Philippine Senate said.
Saying that disaster risk reduction is a collective responsibility, Pimentel cited the significance of the agreement, called the Western Visayas Declaration on Disaster Risk Reduction Priorities, which was drawn up by participants from various local government units, business sector, civil society, academe and media.
Led by co-convener and Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia, they declared their unity, commitment and resolve to reduce the risks of disasters in Western Visayas, saying that calamities can be addressed with proper management of the sources of risk, level of exposure and buildup of adaptive capacity, the press release said.
The declaration also focused on the need to educate the people on the hazards of climate change and the importance of community-based responses against calamities. It also underscored the need to establish permanent evacuation centers and provisions for emergency kits and related survival training program, it said.
Pimentel, meanwhile, said that he would push for the immediate passage of the Land Use Act and urged local executives to strictly implement various environmental laws, especially those meant to protect the forest and waterways and provide alternative livelihood programs to those displaced by calamities.
"Timely action taken with sufficient information is a pillar of disaster risk reduction," said Pimentel, who noted that a similar accord was made earlier in Cagayan de Oro City by the Mindanaonons.
"We take action not only during the time of the disaster but more importantly prior to it," he said.
The country, which is situated in the so-called typhoon alley, is visited by at least 20 typhoons annually with one half making a landfall. From years 2000 to 2007, eight of the most deadly typhoons wrought an average P70 million to P1 billion in damages and death tolls that ran in thousands, the press release said.
Last year's typhoon Sendong, which claimed more than 1,400 lives and billions in infrastructure and properties lost, placed the Philippines at No. 2 after the Japan earthquake and tsunami in the list of the worst natural disasters to have rocked the world, it added.
Pimentel said there are measures that could be adopted to minimize the destruction and losses caused by typhoons, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other extreme weather disturbances, stressing that a high-level awareness and readiness by the people are necessary to lessen the impact of disasters.
"Be aware, be prepared, take action. Calamitous events will happen, the challenge to us is to avoid making these disasters," he added.*