SouthCot to tweak disaster preparedness and response system

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/15 November)–South Cotabato officials are considering some reforms in the province’s disaster preparedness, mitigation and response mechanisms in the wake of the widespread destruction wrought by super typhoon “Yolanda” in parts of the Visayas region.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said Friday she has instructed the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) to review the area’s disaster management plan and immediately address the gaps with some of its mechanisms.

“For many years, we were spared from typhoons and other weather disturbances but climate has changed so it’s important for us to be better prepared as early as now,” she said.

Fuentes specifically cited the need to identify proper evacuation areas for communities that were identified as highly-prone or at risk to natural disasters, especially those that are climate or weather-related.

The proposed evacuation centers or areas should be assessed extensively in terms of their safety and vulnerability to disasters, she said.

She said it’s no longer safe to just set some schools and covered courts as automatic evacuation centers as what happened in Tacloban City and the neighboring areas at the height of typhoon “Yolanda.”

The governor noted the significant casualties earlier reported by authorities among residents who took refuge in some of the identified evacuation centers due to the storm surge brought by the weather disturbance.

“Our city and municipal engineers in the area should make sure that the buildings and related structures that are being built in the area are not substandard and have complied with all safety regulations,” she said.

For the identified flashflood and landslide-prone areas, Fuentes said barangay councils should check whether there are residents that need immediate evacuation or relocation.

She has directed the PDRRMO to evaluate anew the areas that are considered in extreme danger and work out the relocation of residents from these areas.

Fuentes cited residents who remain settled in areas that had history of landslides and those situated at the banks of critical rivers and waterways.

In terms of disaster preparedness, she said they are looking at setting more systematic evacuation mechanism and make sure that local residents are properly aware of them.
“We also need to establish stable communication systems down to our barangays and sitios and make sure that there are alternative means to reach them in case of any eventuality,” she said.

Fuentes added that they are planning to equip barangays with stable radio communication facilities and link them up with concerned government agencies.

Ramon Ponce de Leon, acting PDRRMO head, said they are set to launch a series of trainings for barangay disaster action teams or BDATs and make sure that they are properly equipped to respond to any disaster incident.

He said they are also planning to acquire additional rescue vehicles by next year to enhance their mobility during disaster operations. (MindaNews)