Phl Ambassador Presents Embassy’s Disaster Preparedness Plan at Disaster Management Workshop for Diplomatic Missions
27 September 2013 - In the Philippine Embassy’s continuing quest to make the Filipino community in New Zealand more resilient, proactive and prepared in the event of a natural disaster, Philippine Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez participated in the Disaster Management Workshop for Diplomatic Missions in Wellington hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) of New Zealand on September 24. The objective of the Workshop is to share information between members of the Diplomatic Corps and representatives from the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM) as the lead agency for civil defence emergencies affecting New Zealand.
Ms. Caroline Bilke, MFAT’s Chief of Protocol, welcomed the diplomatic heads of mission and members of the diplomatic corps to the Workshop. Ms. Mary Oliver, Deputy Chief of Protocol, provided the outline for the Workshop and introduced the Diplomats who were presenting their Mission’s Disaster Preparedness Plans.
A presentation on the work, responsibilities and goals of the MCDEM was provided by MCDEM Director John Hamilton and Analysis and Planning Division Manager Sarah Stuart-Black. Three diplomatic missions also presented on the current state their emergency preparedness plans.
Ambassador Benavidez was one of the three diplomats who presented their respective Embassy’s Disaster Preparedness Plan, along with French Chargés d' Affaires Agnes Hamilton, and Australian Counsellor and Consul-General Peter Sams. Chargés d'Affaires Hamilton and Consul General Sams presented an overview of their respective disaster preparedness plans with the main goal of ensuring the safety of their personnel and their nationals in New Zealand.
Ambassador Benavidez thanked the MFAT for organizing this important workshop in cooperation with MCDEM as disaster preparedness is central to the Embassy’s work and lives of communities. She also shared with the group the directive of the Office of the President and instructions from the Department of Foreign Affairs to put in place Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response Plans as part of the foreign policy priority to ensure the welfare and well-being of global Filipinos. She presented the Philippine Embassy’s Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response Plan for Filipino Communities, Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response Plan for Philippine Embassy Personnel, and the Further Steps that the Philippine Embassy is taking to prepare itself and the Filipino community for an emergency. She shared the template the Embassy disseminates to the Filipino community organizations and leaders in New Zealand during meetings with them as part of the Embassy’s Mobile Consular Outreach activities. The template consists of information regarding the Filipino community in a specific area, the significant threats in the area, the geographic and zoning map of the area, list of Filipino community with contact details, list of contacts with local government and non-government agencies in the area, list of nearest Civil Defence Centres, Communications Networks available, Disaster Readiness Campaign and survival kits, information on alert levels in place, identification of relocation centres, identification of evacuation exit points, and budgetary requirements. This template has been disseminated and explained to Filipino communities which the Embassy has visited during its Mobile Consular Outreach in 23 cities in New Zealand’s North and South Islands as well as in Fiji, Tonga, Cook Islands, and Samoa from October 2011 to September 2013.
Ambassador Benavidez also explained the actions taken by the Embassy after the severe earthquakes in Greater Wellington in July and August 2013. The Embassy issued advisories and updates on 22 July and 26 July 2013 with information on where the Wellington Civil Defence Centre (CDC) locations may be found, emergency numbers in New Zealand, where emergency kits may be purchased, and contact details of the Embassy. On 27 August 2013, the Embassy issued a comprehensive advisory on “Practical Steps and Useful Tips” to be followed before, during and after an earthquake. This advisory further advised Filipinos in the Greater Wellington to be resilient in times of natural disasters such as earthquakes and that the Filipino community must ensure that they are capable of surviving on their own for three days (next 72 hours) after a disaster happens.
Moreover, Ambassador Benavidez presented the emergency preparedness of the Embassy personnel, citing that each Embassy personnel has evacuation plans in place and have identified the CDC locations nearest their homes and each has his or her own emergency kits: one at the Embassy, one at home, and another in the car. The emergency kits and Grab & Go Kits include articles such as a dynamo-powered radio and torch, first aid kit, multifunctional knife and other emergency survival necessities as well as food, water, change of clothes, sturdy shoes, and important documents.
As the Embassy takes the necessary steps to ensure readiness and preparedness in case of disasters and emergencies, it has also coordinated with the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO) in conducting Emergency Management Workshops. One such workshop was held on 10 October 2012 and another is scheduled for the Filipino community in the Greater Wellington Area on 05 October 2013. Also, the Embassy is in talks with the New Zealand police dealing with ethnic communities and general safety to schedule a workshop in November 2013. Moreover, continuous reminders to the Filipino community regarding emergency preparedness are posted on the Embassy’s website and Facebook page.
MFAT officials thanked the diplomatic corps who attended the Workshop in full force reinforcing the importance of disaster preparedness planning and conveyed their gratitude to the Philippine Embassy, French Embassy and Australian High Commission for their highly useful and informative presentations.