PHILIPPINES: Disaster mitigation begins at home
One year on, many residents are taking it upon themselves to safeguard their homes
MANILA, 29 September 2010 (IRIN) - One year after typhoon Ketsana
killed more than 1,000 people and affected up to 10 million, Filipinos are taking it upon themselves to protect their communities against similar disasters.
"What do we do to make ourselves ready in case a typhoon like that comes again? We cannot just wait for help to come to us," said Teresita Deles, a member of the Marikina People Power Volunteers, one of several community-based groups that has mobilized a preparedness response since Ketsana.
In Marikina City, within Metro Manila and one of the worst-hit areas, the group has installed flood markers and begun distributing bahangas, six-person rubber rescue boats designed to transport residents through the narrow streets of Metro Manila to higher ground.
"It's no guarantee, but if anything should happen, we are better prepared," Deles told IRIN.
The flood markers act as an early-warning mechanism. If the water rises higher than the markers, city residents are immediately contacted by the volunteers and warned to leave.
The lack of rubber boats was one of the factors that delayed rescue operations during typhoon Ketsana.
Several kilometers away, two families in Pasig City - another of the worst-hit areas - have found ways to "flood-proof" their homes and businesses.
The Surla family spent US$2,200 to build a rubber-sealed, waterproof gate and buy a pump to prevent - or at the very least, delay - floodwaters from entering their home, which was submerged in almost 2m high water a year ago.
"It's a replica of my in-laws' gate in Tagbilaran City," said Allen Surla. "It was built after a major flood in the city five years ago. It has since withstood so many typhoons. It works. It secures their compound."
In similar self-reliant fashion, the Sanchez family of Sagad Village has elevated the flooring of their toy shop and built a cement barrier in front of their family-owned grocery store.
"We lost a lot of money after Ketsana. With the barrier, I hope floodwaters will not come in any more. The barrier gives me peace of mind," said Aurora Sanchez, 63.
Government help needed
Some government officials are calling for more help to facilitate the efforts of these communities.
"We need to identify long-term solutions to the climate crisis along with the means to fund programmes that will allow our people to cope with the rapidly and dangerously changing climate," said Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.
Since last year, several bills have been filed to provide local government units with funding to educate and train people on how to protect their communities from extreme weather conditions. Congress will soon deliberate on the next year's budget.
According to a December 2009 World Bank report
, which assessed the damage caused by the twin typhoons last year, some 83,000 households in danger zones in Metro Manila need to be relocated.
The report said a total of $1.72 billion would be needed to address shelter and transitional housing, rebuilding and new homes for families living in flood-prone areas.
Until the funding is available, local populations, such as the Surla and the Sanchez families, will have to fend for themselves.