Speaking during the Business Case for Disaster Reduction seminar spearheaded by the UNISDR and SM Prime, Alfredo Arquillano, former Mayor of San Francisco, said their hard work paid off when his town registered no casualty during the onslaught of super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) last year.
“We were badly hit by Yolanda because we were on its path. Almost 1000 houses were totally destroyed in our town while 4000 others were partially destroyed but no one died in our town of 48,000 people.
We evacuated all the 1000 people who needed to be evacuated without any problem because we had a solid disaster-resiliency plan that we had put in place since 2005,” Arquillano said.
The UNISDR and SM Prime seminar was conducted to find ways and means to make private businesses, which comprise 90 percent of all businesses, more resilient to disasters not only to protect their businesses but their employees and communities as well.
Arquillano, who himself had received various local and international awards due to his environmental efforts in his municipality, stated that the road of his town towards disaster-resilience took just five years because of the cooperation of the residents. He said their town’s experience during the yearly typhoons was enough motivation for them to protect their lives. “We had really bad experiences from typhoons, especially in 1982 and 1990 when a lot of people died in San Francisco and so when this project was presented to us, the people were generally responsive,” he said.
He said when he was a mayor in 2005, he not only followed the Hugo Framework of the UN on disaster-preparedness, he applied it one step further by putting it in the community level. “The Hugo Framework is pretty much simple and easy to follow – it’s basically increasing awareness through education but what we did was put it in the community level by creating smaller groups called purok for the information dissemination,” he said.
With 15 barangays, Arquillano broke them down to 120 puroks which comprise between 20 to 100 households. Each purok has an elected president with the corresponding leaders in charge of key areas such as health and nutrition, security, job security, environment protection, disaster and response, among others. Each purok is required to meet and conduct drill exercises at least once a month. All purok leaders and officers are volunteers.
“Everyone knows the risks, the possible hazards and everyone knows what to do in case of emergencies and disasters. That’s why when Yolanda came, the response became automatic because disaster preparedness is a way of life for the residents,” he said.
As a way to entice them to apply the Hugo Framework, Arquillano said they offered the puroks that will be able to meet all the requirements P20,000 each.