Disaster preparedness has not really caught on among Filipinos despite the calamity brought by destructive typhoons like Yolanda.
Hirokazu Nagata, chairman of NPO Plus Arts behind the Earth Manual Project, cited the need to educate the people, particularly the youth, in dealing with emergencies and disasters.
“A lot of people already know that the Philippines is not really prepared well for disasters. We had the same problem in Japan. It goes back to education. You can’t expect a Japanese adult to wake up prepared. Disaster preparedness should be taught, from elementary, year after year, every so often, so that it can be instilled in them,” Nagata told The Manila Times during the opening of the exhibit on the Earth Manual Project in the Ayala Museum.
The Earth Manual Project encourages children and disaster survivors to get engaged in disaster preparedness.
Nagata said the lack of urgency to plan ahead of the disaster is something that cannot be changed overnight.
One of the group’s showcases is the Iza! Kaeru Caravan!, Jishin Itsumo Project which uses locally popular animals and materials common to a certain country, like the tarsier for the Philippines, to illustrate how people can secure themselves and little children when disaster strikes.
There is also the NPO Plus Arts’ Red Bear Survival Camp, an initiative for children wherein they earn a badge for every skill test that they pass such as tying a rope or administering a first aid.
The Earth Manual Project also features the Lost Homes Restoration Project by Japanese Osamu Tsukihashi in Nagasaki, Japan, wherein the disaster area is being restored by the survivors guided by miniature models. This activity allows the survivors to build the good memories they had in their houses and community, share common experiences, get over the tragedy and look forward to a happier future.
“To be prepared, there is a need to record the experiences, including that of the victims. We need to have that information and plant the seeds. For us to take these effective steps, we need the artists and creative people to come in to make learning of disaster preparedness fun and enjoyable,” Nagata said.
Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna and Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list echoed the Earth Manual Project’s concern about the lack of disaster preparedness awareness, especially in evacuation centers.
“Schools have always been used as evacuation centers. The problem is that schools are not made to accommodate families in distress because these are not usually equipped with enough facilities such as comfort rooms, kitchens, or sleeping areas to lessen the discomfort of families having to leave their homes so to save their lives,” the Bayan Muna legislators said in their House Bill 3468 which calls for establishing disaster-proof evacuation centers in every three barangays.
The schools, Bayan Muna noted, must not be used as evacuation centers because families cannot immediately vacate the school premises pending the repair of their houses, impairing the school days of the children.
“Considering that the Philippines is a country visited by typhoons yearly, the government has to undertake measures. We can save lives by ensuring that sturdy and typhoon-resilient, climate change-adaptive evacuation centers are built,” the congressmen said. Batocabe aired the same concern , citing the schools in Albay serving as temporary shelters for families driven out of their homes by the restiveness of Mayon Volcano.
Since Alert Level 3 was declared for Mayon on September 16, close to 13,000 families living inside the six-kilometer permanent danger zone and seven-kilometer radius expanded danger zone have been staying at evacuation centers.
The Department of Education said 39,317 students in 40 schools have been affected by the forced evacuation.
“It’s about time that there must be a paradigm shift from conveniently using our classrooms as evacuation centers for victims of calamities to setting up permanent evacuation centers or sites. As it is, we are creating a new set of evacuees as we displace our teachers and students from their classrooms,” Batocabe said.