The rainy season has officially begun and rains are becoming commonplace. Soon, we expect typhoons entering our atmosphere, estimated by Pagasa to be in the range of 20 for the year. We can also expect more intense rainfall accompanied possibly by strong winds. It should not come as a surprise that we will be confronted with another catastrophic disaster like Yolanda.
One cannot emphasize enough the value of preparedness. Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, reported that the annual cost of natural disaster in the last three to four years had been about $200 billion compared to only $50 billion three decades ago. Of the amount, only 4 percent is spent on disaster preparedness despite the fact that every dollar investment in preparedness results in four dollars of savings in damage.
Thus, by investing more in preparedness, one is spending less on disaster response and rehabilitation. Fortunately, this was taken into account when the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) prepared its 18-year plan following the 2005-2015 Hyogo Framework for Action.
As part of disaster preparedness, the NDRRMC proposes—in support of the Philippine Development Plan—the integration of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction management plans into all education levels. Indeed, if we are to mimic the success of Japan in instilling a culture of preparedness, then integrating this into the curriculum will bring about change.
However, a review of the revised basic education curriculum shows that disaster readiness and risk reduction is only an 80-hour core course for either Grades 11 or 12. Certainly, this is no way to change one’s mindset about disaster preparedness nor will it result in any change of behavior. For it to make any impact, it should be taught at each level from K to 12, all the way to the collegiate level for the academic track and technical level for those in the vocational track. In Japan, kindergarten students are already exposed to disaster drills on a monthly basis.
As remedies to the deficiencies in the core curriculum at the basic and higher education, I propose the following interventions: 1) disaster training and climate adaptation to be taken at least once a month during Physical Education classes of all basic education students; 2) Republic Act 9163 be amended to include Disaster Training as a fourth and preferred option for the National Service Training Program (NSTP); 3) offer core courses or electives in disaster risk management and sustainable development in higher education; 4) offer disaster risk management at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda); 5) mandate attendance in a disaster leadership program for local government leaders as prerequisite to disaster fund release; 6) create disaster response teams in each community; 7) designate disaster managers for each organization; 8) require disaster management experts for office buildings as well as vertical and horizontal housing communities; and 9) conduct periodic informational campaigns in print, radio, TV and the Internet.
If we start today, in 20 years we would have empowered today’s kindergarten students to become responsible citizens capable of responding instinctively to disasters. Not only will they be able to minimize the risks to lives and properties, they will become proactive in a quest to arrest the unfortunate consequences of climate change.
Do we need another Yolanda to remind us to act today?
Dr. Santiago is a Full Professor at the Management and Organization Department, of De La Salle University. She teaches Corporate Social Responsiveness, Sustainable Organizations, Leadership in Organization, Family Business Management, Human Resource Management, and Finance in Education.