BANGKOK, 31 January 2012 - Mayors from the Mindanao region in the Philippines recently ravaged by Typhoon Sendong have been tasked to invest more in prevention and mitigation measures, by one of last year’s recipients of the prestigious Sasakawa Award.
The call was issued by disaster risk reduction (DRR) champion vice-Mayor Al Arquillano from San Francisco, in the Camotes Islands, who won the award for making his municipality safer against disasters.
Speaking at a Forum of Mayors organized by UNISDR, the UN office for disaster risk reduction office, Arquillano asked the 20 mayors present to do what is needed to be less vulnerable to floods and droughts as he warned that “we will be facing many more in the future”. He invited his counterparts in Mindanao to visit his municipality to see how San Francisco has developed resilience.
Arquillano’s message found support yesterday from another DRR Champion, Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change and a regional champion for DRR in the Philippines who, in a speech before congress, called for early warning systems to be enhanced to facilitate swift and early actions. She also stressed building the capacity of the local disaster risk reduction and management councils in both preparedness and disaster mitigation activities.
"We need to rebuild communities with the confidence that we are not rebuilding the risks again; we need to ensure that reconstruction of homes and infrastructure will be on safer ground following sound construction standards; we need to soon restart and create livelihoods; and restore normalcy in people's lives with a stronger sense of hope and confidence for the future," the Senator said.
“We know that we are always the ones blamed when disaster happens, but citizens need to understand that we cannot do magic,” said Lawrence Cruz, Mayor of Iligan which was devastated by Typhoon Sendong. “We need the help of every citizen as well as the help of national governments to anticipate disasters. It is a collective effort and everybody needs to understand the challenge.”
Land tenure and illegal logging are the main problems faced by the local governments of Illigan and Cagayan de Oro which were among the localities most affected by the recent typhoon. Thousands of people are still living under tents or occupying school premises.
“Mayors have different concerns and different needs,”” said UNISDR Chief, Margareta Wahlström. “The one common interest which unites them is the need to better protect their citizens against disasters. I am pleased to see that they are all very determined to do what it is needed to avoid another tragedy like the one which has hit Iligan and Cagayan de Oro.”
The Mayors who attended the forum were: Alvin Labis (Alubijid); Alexis Quina (Balingasag); Perlita Espero (Balingoan); Ian Aceina (Vice Mayor – Cagayun de Oro); Alfredo Tan (El Salvador); Rodolfo Buray (Gitagum); Ruthie de Lara-Guingona (Gingoon); Redentor Jardin ((Jasaan); Danilo Lagbas Jr. (Kinoguitan); Oliver Ubaub (Laguindingan); Wellie Lim (Lugait); Pacifico Puspos Jr. (Medina); Jaime Roa (Naawan); Dexter Yasay (Opol); and Romeo Gue Sr. (Salay). Oscar Moreno, Governor of Misamis Oriental also attended.
More than 1,268 lives were lost and some 441,022 others remain affected by typhoon Sendong in the Mindanao region. A report of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) estimates Php59.23-Billion (US$1.38 billion) as the total direct and indirect losses caused by typhoons, floods and landslides in 2011; Sendong accounted for Php17.48-Billion (US$407.7 million) of those losses.