Friday, January 6, 2017


ASK ANY AVID MOVIE GOER about Mission Impossible II and they would almost always tell you that “originals are the best and sequels are not”. The 1st Responders General Assembly and Conference of September 16 and 17, 2016 was reportedly a sequel to the first one which was held last year. It was not a sequel but just a reunion and an attendance check of all Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices in Cebu Province.

I was there to represent both the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild and Ham Radio Cebu. Both non-government organizations were part of the summit of last year and have been invited again to take part in this conference. I arrived early at Camp Marina, located at Kalunasan Hills, Cebu City and my tribe from the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild came a few minutes after me. We set up our hammocks and overhead shelters between trees behind the big tents.

Mark Lepon, Nelson Tan, Nelson Orozco and Leomil Pino, along with Chad Bacolod of the Provincial Information Office and Marcus Tiu of Ham Radio Cebu, set up theirs near mine. Contingents from the north, south and central parts of Cebu Province began to arrive to register and to claim big empty tents as their shelters. There was a big amphitheater on the lower ground where all activities will be concentrated but the reception area was quite busy during the early hours.

The big names of last year’s summit are not around anymore to give it a moral boost and an ascendancy of why should there be another big one. The three-day 1st SAR Summit, an original idea of Dennis Cortes, was a big success and it provided the moving force by which the requirements of Republic Act 10121 should be strictly implemented by all local government units, which a lot failed then to allocate and/or provide office space, personnel and budget.

However, the staff of the Cebu Provincial DRRMO gave it their all on this occasion even with what few funding and logistics they may have mustered from their budget so a good tradition started by the first summit would continue, although a bit late, but just the same, an important event. It does not matter if it paled in comparison to the original but, it would be the proper forum to talk again the spirit behind RA 10121 and to review the strides taken by the PDRRMO in behalf of these LGUs.

The 1st SAR Summit slogan of “Interoperability, Camaraderie and Cooperation” had been remembered and it achieved satisfactorily with a good turnout of contingents for September 16 but I thought we got a bigger crowd back then. There was not a high government official or any subaltern to grace the occasion and this is where this event failed to live up to the prestige of the first. Even PDRRMO head, Baltazar Tribunalo Jr., appeared only once, a far cry from last year where he was everywhere.

I do not know what happened to the whole PDRRMO setup? It seemed demoralized? In fairness, it is the best outfit in Central Visayas and, probably, including the whole Southern Philippines. Would politics have a hand in its current operation? Its selection of personnel, perhaps? We know that it was just a few months after election and those that won seats would claim that privilege (bad practices that keep recurring like nightmares) of placing relatives and supporters under government employment.

The PDRRMO needs skilled people and the very experienced. It has already that in its old roster. Why fix something when it is in good working order? The successful campaign launched by Mr. Tribunalo and Mr. Cortes to inculcate the value of implementing properly RA 10121 to the LGUs is commendable. There never was a precedence (and a challenge), such as the implementation of the DRRM Law, and we are all running out of time to mitigate climate change, which is almost close to impossible.

I guess, in my own opinion, too much politics often destroy what would otherwise have been a good tradition in the making. People holding the reins of governance, along with their different streaks of character and psyche (unsavory or not), as well as their priorities and their promises to their constituents which, most of the time are just that – promises, almost always influence the outcome of running simple bureaucracies like the PDRRMO and its LGU counterparts.

I have seen many new faces brought on by the changes imposed by the newer elected officials of the towns and cities and on Capitol itself, willfully and whimsically, that put to waste the efforts put forth by the last administrations to equip their responders with valuable knowledge and hard-to-get trainings. It is indeed a waste to see these experienced and trained people go in exchange of politicians playing favorites to their backers. Except for a few ones.

The first of the LGUs that I have trained in wilderness survival, the Municipality of Liloan, have gone a long way since, from being upstarts last year to become one of the top-tier DRRMO of the province. I did not even recognize them were it not for their attractive rescue uniforms bearing the name of Liloan. If their morale was that high, it is because their municipality fully supported them in terms of logistics and trainings and implementing faithfully RA 10121. Surely, there were no ugly politics poking in their office.

Team-building activities and meals took the whole of the first day until dusk came, accompanied by rain. Then it was time for my Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild to present a show. We were tasked to light a bonfire from a flame made by friction and it came at a worst time: it was already night and everything was wet. I assigned two teams for this task. One on pieces of bamboo and the other on bowdrill. We succeeded in making a small fire from friction but burning wet wood was difficult until a bonfire did succeed.

The second day – September 17 – was devoted for the drafting of a protocol for response and another for communications. It was for this reason that top guys from amateur radio clubs like Randy Pancito of Cebu Amateur Radio League and Jet Manuel of Ham Radio Cebu were invited along with civic radio clubs ACER and REACT-Metro Cebu. The amateur clubs have the expertise and the technical know-how to propagate signals in extreme conditions and would be willing to extend trainings at no cost to the LGUs.

That turned on a sour note when a government functionary from the National Telecommunications Communication insisted on the use of cellular phones. He was talking nonsense there since we all know that as an unreliable communication tool because we were there after a 7.2 earthquake in Bohol and, later, after Typhoon Yolanda and it failed miserably! Even without calamities, its coverage is limited. All outcomes of accidents do not stay on open terrain. Most of the time, it is found in places where you do not thought people would visit. Places where even a sliver of sunlight cannot penetrate.

Then this functionary proposed and promised for the creation of a special frequency, solely for emergencies when, in fact, there was already one at 145.000 MHZ VHF provided by law for such uses, only the NTC office here assigned it to another amateur radio club. Breaking its own rules and behaving as if it is alright. Disgusting! The NTC should have done damage control right after Yolanda instead of impressing people with promises as if they know when the next disaster would come.

We from the amateur radio community follow rules because that was what is asked of us from the NTC. We are different from the rest because we need to pass a written examination before applying for an amateur radio station license. We help the government, even if not requested, and be available in places of catastrophes to provide direct communication links to the outside world. We help by way of trainings and offer equipment and time to help communities, LGUs and NGOs develop their communication capability (at no cost because we are amateurs) and to instruct proper radio etiquette.

I can not understand why the regional NTC office does not recognize the role of legitimate amateur radio clubs? Amateur radio stations and clubs will stay forever while government workers retire, can be transferred or gets dismissed and they cannot dictate the preferences of their replacements. We just hope that the next NTC director would be fair on legitimate, but true, amateur radio clubs and not be consumed with prejudices and petty politics. The next one should clear the VHF emergency channel of 145.000 MHZ for use of all amateurs instead of one club.

Spent the rest of the second day in my hammock since I had lost interest with what that NTC employee was incoherently babbling about. Closing ceremonies began right after lunch and the best LGUs were given recognition for their exemplary achievements. The Liloan DRRMO snared the top award besting the rest of the field, even the highly-urbanized cities which has more resources at their disposal. What Mr. Cortes, Mr. Manuel and I have taught them they applied in the real world and they came out the best.

The Responders General Assembly and Conference is an important event and, I hope too, in the next chapter (that would be next year), that our elected officials in the province or whoever are the substitutes will be, should take the highest consideration of gracing this since DRRMOs can make politicians look good on public. Appreciation can be best felt when being seen and not by excuses.

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

No comments: