(From top left, clockwise): Victoria Navarro, Trevor Riggen, Lourdes Tiglao, Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, Rene Meily, and Kerri Murray | Photo via Philippine Embassy
NEW YORK – The importance of volunteerism, collaboration, and partnership in building disaster-ready and resilient communities highlight a recent webinar organized by the Philippines Embassy in collaboration with the American Red Cross.
With the theme Foundations and Futures: Harnessing PH-US Partnerships to Build More Disaster-Ready and Resilient Communities, the event was held July 29 in observance of the Philippine National Disaster Resilience Month and celebration of the 75th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the United States.
As the theme implies, the discussion was about building capacity to respond to vulnerable communities properly and immediately recover from any disaster. This is to be strengthened by the collaboration of all stakeholders. According to the panelists, mitigation and prevention are better achieved when communities, organizations, and global partners work together.
The panelists that shared their organization’s activities and programs included Rene Meily, president of the Philippine Disaster Response Foundation; Kerri Murray, president of ShelterBox USA; Victoria Navarro, director of the Philippine Humanitarian Coalition; Lourdes Tiglao, former Strategic Partnerships Officer of Team Rubicon Global; and Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, president of the National Resilience Council.
Trevor Riggen, senior vice president for Disaster Cycle Services of the American Red Cross, acted as the webinar moderator.
Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Jaime Ramon T. Ascalon, Jr. set the tone of the discussion by emphasizing the importance of partnerships, especially in times of calamities. He underlined the humanitarian assistance provided by the United States and partner organizations to the Philippines through the years.
Besides describing their respective organization’s programs and collaborative work with local communities and organizations, they partner with local and national governments. Most of the panelists described their work and their challenges during Typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines in November 2013.
Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Super Typhoon Yolanda, was one of the most powerful tropical cyclones and deadliest Philippine typhoons on record, killing at least 6,300 people.
“There are many ways folks can engage no matter what your situation is like,” Tiglao said. She emphasized that volunteerism goes a long way, and no contribution is ever small. Team Rubicon, a volunteer group that helps communities prepare, respond, and recover from disasters, provides purpose to its volunteers through disaster relief. Team Rubicon was one of the first organizations to send volunteers to the Philippines during Typhoon Yolanda.
On the other hand, ShelterBox USA said that the way to respond to the needs of disaster-hit communities efficiently is to work with the local community and utilize locally available resources. Murray said that her organization considers sheltering a basic need and that the first step to recovery is to have shelter immediately after a disaster strikes. According to Murray, ShelterBox USA provided emergency shelters and basic supplies to affected communities and families during Typhoon Haiyan and succeeding typhoons that hit the country.
Navarro of the Philippine Humanitarian Coalition (PHC) underscored her organization’s work and the group’s engagement with various organizations. The group, she said, was established in response to the destruction brought by Typhoon Haiyan. Navarro added that PHC continues to assist disaster-stricken communities to this day and now prioritizes climate action.
“This is now the time for us to move to the next step. It’s now time for prevention,” Navarro said.
After presenting the program and achievements of the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), Meily described the extent of assistance and programs for disaster management and recovery, which includes the PDRP Operations Center. He said the Center is the first private sector-led national operation center in the world.
According to Meily, PDRF is an organization of businesses that coordinates the private sector’s disaster management operations and aims to build a more disaster-resilient Philippines by harnessing its partnership with private entities and communities and government agencies, and humanitarian organizations.
“The Philippines is way ahead of many other countries in partnerships, especially the private sector and civil society. We are so active because we’ve learned from our past disasters,” Meily said.
The work of the National Resilience Council is to use a science-based approach through a partnership with the public and private sector and build the resilient Philippines, Maria Antonia Yulo-Gonzaga said. She stressed the importance of reframing the way we look at disasters.
“With disaster and development, we regard disasters as not single discrete events. They’re the result of development patterns that have emerged over years,” Yulo-Gonzaga said. “In fact, when we look at different hazards which expose the vulnerable, we ask, were these of human decisions putting people in harm’s way? So the issue really for us is, do we prepare to prevent or just continue to prepare to respond.”
Murray reiterated the importance of partnerships and collaborations in responding to disasters. “No single organization works alone. Collaboration is key,” she said.
–With Jay Domingo/PDM