By Manuel T. Ugalde
LEGAZPI CITY --- The much-ballyhooed Climate Change Academy established in this city during the incumbency of then Albay Governor now Rep. Joey Salceda has finally been disabled as a disaster risk management teaching institution. Or was it?
Founded in 2009 where disaster risk management personnel of local government units would be welcomed to learn more about disaster and risk management and how to minimize casualties and damages during times of disaster, the Climate Change Academy will now be utilized as a research center under the supervision of the Albay Provincial Safety and Emergency Management Office (Apsemo), Cedric Daep, Apsemo head, said in a radio interview.
The Academy, a brainchild of then Gov. Salceda, was located and inaugurated 8 years ago inside the Bicol University campus here with no less than then President Benigno Aquino III as principal guest during its inauguration in 2009.
Salceda in 2013 was hailed by Malacanang for achieving zero casualty when Typhoon Glenda hit Bicol with disastrous ferocity.
Salceda cannot be reached for comment when contacted about this issue.
In his nine years as governor since 2007, Salceda introduced what was dubbed by local leaders as an exemplary disaster risk management program.
Salceda’s critics, however, took him to task for his allegedly excessive and highly elaborate disaster management plans, including herding of thousands of residents in evacuation centers with free food and other basic needsat least three days before an announced upcoming typhoon or volcanic eruption, including instances when such typhoons or feared disaster would actually fail to come.
The critics noted that Salceda’s evacuation efforts spent millions of pesos in taxpayers’ money for food, gasoline, and mobilization works at costs more than the damage actually wrought by a typhoon or aborted volcanic eruption.
There were also accusations of donations from international charity assistance institutions that were not fully accounted for.
Many residents, however, said that after Salceda’s final term as as governor, they no longer receive updates about the weather that used to be sent by Salceda’s office via cellphones and that radio weather broadcasts have now been frequently aired unlike in the past, especially during hostile weather, when they are done on 24-hour basis.
During the typhoon on December 25 last year, five deaths were reported as affected residents failed to leave their homes because of the absence of serious effort to evacuate them.
In Salceda’s time, they recalled, as much as an average of 130,000 people are immediately evacuated at the first sign of weather disturbance, with free food being supplied at evacuation centers.
Gov. Bichara explained that the Capitol had given its support for the full evacuation of affected residents as the powerful Typhoon Nina approached but many of these residents were simply too stubborn to obey the order to abandon their homes.
Bichara’s spokesman Danny Garcia clarified that the Climate Change Academy was not disbanded but merely reintegrated with the Apsemo as a research center with some changes in the provincial government’s disaster management program to be introduced.