Leyte Fourth District Representative Lucy Torres-Gomez, who is the 18th Congress Chairman of Disaster Management, graced The Manila Times Philippine Model Cities and Municipalities 2019 Awards on Wednesday as the finale speaker where she emphasized the importance of readiness during calamities based on her own experience.
“Disasters have a way of connecting people, even strangers, like asking where one was during Typhoon ‘Ondoy’ or ‘Yolanda.’ From there. conversations and even friendships develop,” the congresswoman noted.
But her goal, she said, is that disaster stories that entertwine with the lives of Filipinos must remain in the past, and that no other set of traumatic experiences come to them.
“I hope and pray that our stories will teach the future not just to survive but to thrive,” she said.
Citing the country’s high gross domestic product despite global fluctuations and the calamities Filipinos face year after year, season after season the past 10 years, Torres-Gomez said economic progress was possible amid natural disasters and human-induced challenges, like the Marawi siege and the unfortunate Resorts World fire.
Sustainability, according to Torres-Gomez, has become quite a buzzword the past three years in relation to climate change. But sustainable development begs the question, “Are our actions today going to diminish our children and grandchildren’s ability to meet their own needs?”
She also pointed out that cities occupy only 3 percent of the earth’s land, yet more than half of the world’s population live in cities. The challenge is for how to make cities sustainable.
“Our model cities and municipalities must be developed with renewable energy as main component, which is the best way to avoid dumping carbon emission into the atmosphere,” she said, mentioning that Ormoc City, under the leadership of her husband, Richard Gomez, is the second largest producer of geothermal energy in the world.
Torres-Gomez also pushed for a more vigorous solar energy program, as well as proper water management, resources which she said the country has both in abundance.
“The country is surrounded by water, yet we experienced one of the worst water crisis this summer. We are blessed with rich water resources above ground like lakes and rivers, as well as underground, but we sometimes get drought and sometimes we get flooded,” Torres-Gomez said, stressing that managing the country’s water resources is imperative as a component of progress and development.
She also said avoiding human-induced disasters like the Marawi siege is easier to avoid than calamities that strike without warning.
“It is easier to work on peace than slow down global warming,” she said, as she emphasized on what’s possible and doable.
Torres-Gomez applauded local government units who have put in place impressive and well-equipped search and rescue teams.
“We can evacuate people in the event a storm hits, but we cannot evacuate houses and agricultural crops. So we need to plan where to build houses and communities, city economic centers and agricultural areas to the barangay (village) level,” she said.
“This means that if an area’s risks far outweigh economic benefits, then such location is not viable. We need to employ techonologies that reduce the impact of floodings and strong winds on our crops so farmers don’t have to gamble their family’s income on the whims of the weather. We need to retrofit buildings in high risk areas and not wait for disasters to hit them,” she stressed.
“Disaster preparedness, resiliency and adaptation are as important as planning for social and economic growth. Allowing our country to be vulnerable and helpless against disaster is like building sand castles. We can only marvel at what we have achieved as long as the coming wave does not wash it away. I dream of the day when waves do come, yet we stand strong and keep our castle intact,” she added.
“Today we lay the foundation of what we leave for future generations. Sustainablity refers to the future, but disaster resiliency takes care of today,” she concluded.