Tuesday, November 19, 2013
THE INTENSITY OF DISASTERS that have hit the Philippines had never been so alarmingly high and threatening. Unexpected heavy rains produced so much damage to property and agriculture and caused unnecessary loss of lives. Areas which had never before been inundated by these natural onslaughts are now part of the swath of destruction that had, in the past, affected our eastern seaboard only. Weather patterns are now very unpredictable, all because of this climate change.
Our usual response are reactive. We mobilize only during and after a disaster. For that matter, it is too late and too little. National emergency response teams and volunteer organizations are stretched to the limit offering what is available and where it is most accessible. There are only a few dedicated teams on stand-by and most of these are located only in Metro Manila and the rest of the country are left to fend for themselves. When that happens, the government are forced to spend more.
In order to preempt such daunting challenges, the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Reservist and Retiree Affairs (J9), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) decided to formulate a program that will organize, train and integrate Disaster Risk and Reduction Management (DRRM) Companies into the AFP Reserve Force. One of its objectives is to put up 137 DRRM Companies in three years (2013-2016) in all fifteen regions nationwide.
It will be proactive and that will be its primary function since it will be an on-site unit which will spearhead Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation that will work closely with Local Government Units (LGU) and the local populace. When called upon during disasters and calamities, it will be a reliable First Responder Group. As such, these units will become the AFP’s force multipliers to assist the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and their respective LGUs in their DRRM Operations and Programs.
Last October 12, 2013, this blogger was invited by CPT JOSE GOCHANGCO, JAGS (Res) to attend a DRRM Bayanihan Forum which was hosted by the 5th Technical and Administrative Brigade - Visayas (Reserve), AFP Central Command at the Sacred Heart Center in Cebu City. I represent the mountain-outdoors sector and my club – Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. Aside mine, other sectors were represented like the medical and legal professions, the Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA), the Air Force rescue unit (505 SAR), the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), volunteer rescue groups, the Army reservists (RCDU) and representatives of LGUs from the Western Visayas Region.
Guest of honor and speaker is MAJ GEN MARLOU SALAZAR AFP, DCS J9. He is the brains behind this program and he gave a presentation of how this will work out. He wanted Cebu to be the first in the Visayas and Mindanao to organize a DRRM Company and another Civil Medical Operations (CMO) Company as they just did recently in Metro Manila. I rose to the challenge by concurring with Jack Janson, the Training Director of the Central Visayas Search and Rescue Unit (CEVSAR), to organize a DRRM Company amongst ourselves.
Part of the package in organizing a DRRM/CMO Company is that each member will have the option to become an AFP Reservist – a citizen soldier – and a chance to be commissioned in the reserve force if ever he/she complies with certain requirements set by J9, AFP. A member can then avail of a series of cross-trainings like Health and Emergency Management (Dept. of Health), Water SAR (Navy/Coast Guard), Collapsed Building SAR (BFP), Air Deployment SAR (Air Force), Hazard Area Mapping (Dept. of Energy and Natural Resources), Mountain and Difficult Area Operations (Army) and the Incident Command System.
Although a DRRM/CMO Company source their own equipment and materials by themselves or through donors, the OCD and the LGU will provide travel and mittimus expenses to and fro the affected areas. These companies, by purpose, are purely voluntary and it will not be taken against an individual should he/she decide not to go on a deployment. By being “territorial”, deployment time will be swift and would not have to go a long bureaucratic process by which the old system works.
I have committed myself and Camp Red to form a company among other outdoors enthusiasts together with CEVSAR. Dominic Sepe and Eli Bryn Tambiga, also of Camp Red, attended this occasion and will be the first of the personnel, together with Jack of CEVSAR, to compose one of the many DRRM/CMO companies for Cebu. I am eyeing to hook up with the PCGA, the BFP and ham radio clubs. Before this forum had been conceptualized, I had already initiated the training/seminar of Camp Red and other outdoors groups about wilderness emergency preparedness, acute mountain sickness, ham radio operations, land navigation, primitive-living skills, stamina build-up, etc.
It is about time that we all work together to prepare for and mitigate risks concerning disasters before it is too late to act. The ugly presence of climate change is real and it had distorted greatly our weather patterns and the volume of rainfall. Nature’s wrath is an act of Providence and there is nothing we can do about it but we could adapt and improvise and make something out of that. We have to reformat our way of thinking and the programs presented during the DRRM Bayanihan Forum are solutions worthy of trying.
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