To foster a culture of preparedness among Filipinos, reelectionist Senator Sonny Angara renewed his call to make disaster risk education mandatory in the curriculum of primary schools to improve the young learners’ understanding of preparedness and response, as well as hone their readiness in dealing with natural calamities.
“Since we live in a country where earthquakes and typhoons are very common, it is imperative that every Filipino is equipped with the basic understanding and knowledge of disaster preparedness and response,” Angara said.
He added: “We can start by teaching our children how to prepare for and respond to different types of calamities. We have to produce a generation that knows how to deal with threats posed by natural disasters and climate change.”
Angara’s proposal to require disaster awareness and mitigation education in primary schools formed part of Senate Bill 1994 which he filed last year. The bill primarily seeks to create the Department of Disaster Resilience—a single, independent and permanent government agency devoted to disaster management and resilience.
The provision on mandatory disaster risk education in SB 1994 expands the present law, Republic Act 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, which mandates the integration of disaster risk and management education in the curriculum of secondary and tertiary levels of education, including the National Service Training Program or NSTP.
The lawmaker from Aurora, who is running under the platform “Alagang Angara,” suggested that the lesson plans to be developed should focus on “preparedness skills” children can integrate easily into their lifestyles and share with their families.
“The preparedness skills training in the classroom must be designed in such a way that children will develop a sense of responsibility to share with their family members whatever knowledge they acquired about disaster preparedness and response,” he pointed out.
“This will give our children confidence, a sense of control, and turns them into self-advocates for disaster preparedness,” he added.
Angara said disaster planning is a must for a disaster-prone country like the Philippines, which sits along the Pacific Ring of Fire and the Tropical Cyclone Belt.
Based on the 2016 World Risk Index, the Philippines ranked third in terms of vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change. Every year, the country experiences almost all forms of natural disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and landslides.
Last Monday, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake jolted parts of Luzon, leaving at least 16 people dead and more than a hundred injured, and critical infrastructures damaged. This was followed by another powerful temblor, with a magnitude of 6.5, in the Visayas on Tuesday, and a magnitude 4.7 quake in Mindanao on Wednesday.
Following the Luzon earthquake, Angara pushed for the immediate passage of his bill creating the Department of Disaster Resilience that will oversee a comprehensive and coordinated strategy in managing natural disasters, with the main goal of saving lives and minimizing damage to property.
He also called on local government units (LGUs) to spend their local disaster funds wisely by prioritizing disaster planning and risk management, saying such move is more proactive and cost-effective in terms of disaster response.
To prevent casualties and damages during calamities, Angara said LGUs should implement precautionary measures like strict enforcement of the building code, limiting developments in disaster-prone areas, and identification of relocation and evacuation sites.
“These steps should lessen the impact of future disasters. It doesn’t prevent earthquakes and extreme weather events, but it makes us more resilient to those impacts,” Angara said.