The Philippines: Resilience through preparedness

24 September, 2012
Melanie with her two children at a day care centre used as evacuation centre, Barangay Cross, Glan, Sarangani, 14 June 2012. Credit: OCHA/Melindi Malang
Melanie with her two children at a day care centre used as evacuation centre, Barangay Cross, Glan, Sarangani, 14 June 2012. Credit: OCHA/Melindi Malang

In the early hours of 12 June, Melanie Taguon was woken by her eldest child and found her house in Central Mindanao surrounded by raging waters. She immediately carried her smaller children to higher ground. Her seven-year-old son, Kenneth, was able to swim out of the house through the flood water. But within an hour, the water level had risen and Melanie’s house disappeared from view, together with all her family’s belongings.

The storm in Glan, Sarangani Province, destroyed 28 houses along the river banks, displacing 765 families from four villages. The Taguons, together with some 30 other families, found shelter at the local covered sports court and a day-care centre. 
 
“I am still thankful that we are all alive,” said Melanie. “That’s all that really matters.”  
 
The municipal government declared a state of emergency and allocated money to help the people who were flooded out of their homes. Melanie’s neighbours lent her family clothing and they received food rations. 
 
June was the first month of the rainy season in the Philippines. Flash floods affected several areas in Central Mindanao including North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani. In June, 7,430 people were displaced due to the rainy season, a landslide in Davao City on 11 June and a 5.5-magnitude earthquake near General Santos City on 15 June. 
 
This situation highlights the vulnerability of many Mindanao villages to natural disasters. Emergency preparedness is critical for the Government and for local communities. OCHA is supporting emergency preparedness in Mindanao, most recently through organizing a multi-disaster simulation exercise for humanitarian partners in July. 
 
This event, initiated by the Office of Civil Defense of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OCD-ARMM), on behalf of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, simulated an earthquake, tsunami, emergency at sea and a bombing. OCHA’s role was to coordinate the humanitarian response, conduct a joint rapid needs assessment, and provide technical assistance including reporting and information management support.
 
“We were pleased to have such strong support from the humanitarian community,” said Atty Anwar Malang, Executive Secretary of OCD-ARMM. “As we consolidate Government capacity as the primary responder, we also understand the important benefit that humanitarian partners can provide to reduce human suffering from natural disasters and conflicts.” 
 
“The information products OCHA makes available during the early days of a crisis can go a long way to improving the targeting of response, reducing duplication and gaps,” added Brigadier General Loreto G. Rirao, one of the organizers. “We are working towards ensuring that we can produce similar products here, as we intend, with time, to have capacity to cover all humanitarian crises except the most overwhelming events.”
 
Reporting by OCHA Philippines