PH learning lessons of storms past: NOAH chief

By Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at Jul 16 2014 01:43 PM | Updated as of Jul 16 2014 09:43 PM

MANILA - The Philippine government has made progress in terms of disaster preparedness and mitigation, which could have kept the number of deaths in the recent typhoon to a minimum, the director of Project NOAH said Wednesday.

"We're getting more and more progress. We're still not out of the woods because typhoon Glenda is still in Zambales. But based on initial reports, it looks like we're getting a good score," Director Mahar Lagmay said in an ANC interview.

Disaster officials said at least five people were reported killed since Typhoon Glenda (international codename Rammasun) made landfall.

The Philippines is hit by about 20 major storms a year, many of them deadly. The Southeast Asian archipelago is often the first major landmass to be struck after storms build above the warm Pacific Ocean waters.

In November Super Typhoon Yolanda (international codename Haiyan) unleashed seven-meter (23-foot) high storm surges that devastated Samar and neighboring Leyte island, killing more than 6,000 people in one of the nation's worst natural disasters.

In terms of strength, Typhoon Glenda has been compared to another typhoon, Milenyo, that killed 200 people in 2006.

Lagmay gave credit to the different strategies introduced within that 8-year difference.

"[Glenda] was no ordinary storm, but all the disaster mitigation plans were well worth it," he said.

He said the government has since updated hazard maps and the culture of preparedness is slowly settling.

Reporting from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) is also on par, he added.

He cited the case of Camotes Island, which took ten years to create a culture of preparedness.

"[Mayor Aly Arquillano] is a good leader who taught the people about safety. The approach was to get people to take the initiative in terms of solving disaster problems. It was a bottom-up approach," the NOAH director said.

He also commended the efforts of NDRRMC chief Alexander Pama for managing the situation very well.

He said Pama utilized volunteers to help out in the government efforts. "Disaster preparedness requires efforts of everybody and encouraging private, religious, NGOs, everybody to work as one."

Lagmay said the culture of preparedness is no small task "but we have to start somewhere." With Agence France-Presse