Disaster Risk Reduction, Innovation and Sustainability: Preparing Cebu for the “Big One

In behalf of UP Cebu, I would like to welcome you all, starting off with Her Excellency Marion Derckx and her Spouse Sjief Ijzermans, the Honorary Consul of Netherlands to Cebu, Consul Gordon Joseph, who we would like to greet at the same time today for his …:

Before, the Province of Cebu is one of the safest places to be, in terms of typhoons, earthquakes and flooding.  In fact, flooding was really unheard of here in Cebu, and rainy season is very predictable, which is beginning in June, when classes are about to start for the regular semester.

In 2014, the whole of the University of the Philippines system all over the country proposed to shift our academic calendar from June-March, to August-May.  At the start, part of the argument for those opposing the shift was that August was when it is the height of the rainy season.  However, this argument fell flat and could not persuade us anymore, especially here in Cebu, for it seemed like rainy season became the whole year round.

And yes, when it comes to typhoons, they used to be very far and few in between, and of such an intensity which we were used to already.  But this was changed in 2013.  It was the year when we had a double whammy.  We were hit in October 15, 2013  by an earthquake with a 6.4 intensity, which luckily, resulted only into minor damages to our buildings here in Cebu, though we cannot say the same thing for our neighboring province of Bohol which was devastated, including their heritage churches, thus greatly affecting their tourism based economy.

Without us having gotten over yet the paranoia due to all the earthquake aftershocks, in less than a month, on November 8, 2013, Typhoon Yolanda, international code name Haiyan swept us here in Central and Eastern Visayas, leaving several towns here in Northern Cebu practically devastated.

One consolation we had then, was that the whole international community came to our rescue and contributed to our immediate recovery and rehabilitation.  Relief goods, housing materials and several other support for livelihood, came in droves, for which we are very grateful. And there even seemed to be a competition among the different international organizations in providing relief and rehabilitation support for us at that time, which became the subject of my research paper how important coordination is, in implementing relief and rehabilitation efforts.

Everyone is now very conscious that we can no longer take our climate and environment for granted.  But what was very timely then in 2013, without us foreseeing then the devastating earthquake and Supertyphoon Yolanda, it was the same year when we embarked in one of our biggest research projects in DRRM.  This was the Philippine Light Intensive Detection and Ranging projects, or Phil-LIDAR 1 and 2, where we do the hazard mapping and resource assessment of the Western Visayas region, with the support of the Department of Science and Technology.  To date, I believe, we had turned over around 30 resource maps both for agri and coastal to 30 cities and municipalities in the Western Visayas region.  Our project leaders will talk about this in a while.

In the whole of the University of the Philippines, as member of the Asian Pacific Rim Universities, we annually take part in the initiatives of the APRU-IRIDES Multi-Hazards Summer School in Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, of which I am an alumna of this summer program.  And just recently, UP’s Board of Regents established the Resilience Institute of the University of the Philippines for DRRM.  Faculty and staff in the whole UP System all over the Philippines, regardless of their fields of expertise,  are given additional assignments as research and extension fellows, with functions and programs relating to multi-hazard, multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral, comprehensive DRRM, to do the following:

(1) Research and Creative Works: by undertaking policy research, action research, and interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary research or creative work; (2) Knowledge Sharing: disseminate research findings, creative works and innovations; (3) Education: establish non-degree educational programs and support degree programs within the UP System; (4) Institution Building: improve the capability of the UP System as an agent of change for  disaster resilience in the Philippines and the Pacific Rim region.

So by co-hosting this symposium this afternoon with the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands, we are very happy to perform our mandate for institution building to be an agent of change for disaster resilience.  But more than that, I am personally happy, that the help of the international community, through the Kingdom of Netherlands,  to make us here in Cebu and in the Philippines disaster resilient, does not start and end only when a calamity strikes us.  Through the innovations they are now going to generously share with us, we can look forward to a more sustainable disaster resiliency programs.
Thank you and let us all enjoy and learn from all our generous and distinguished speakers we have this afternoon.