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Responders in Action: Readiness in the face of disaster

CamSur PDRRMC holds 3-day benchmarking activity in NCR and CALABARZON

By Ana-Liza S. Macatangay

PILI, CAMARINES SUR --- “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” an old adage that speaks of the significance of preparedness in times of calamity.

It holds true not just for the Camarines Sur Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) members, but also to other DRRM workers, responders and rescuers as the growing database of disaster effects continues to affect a larger population of vulnerable households, particularly those living in high-risk areas.

The impact of disasters continues to challenge DRRM institutions and workers as more and more people are put at risk, including responders and rescuers who inevitably put their lives on the line to fulfill their duties of being at the forefront of every disaster to ensure the safety of vulnerable communities.

When TS Paeng passed through the province’s vicinity in October, though it was packed with less rain and weak tropical wind signal as compared to areas directly hit by its wrath, it still affected 41, 167 families / 166,446 individuals mostly living in vulnerable areas and coastal barangays of Camarines Sur.

During the onslaught of TS Paeng, approximately 25,317 families/100, 699 individuals sought temporary refuge at various evacuation centers, mostly in schools, municipal designated evacuation areas, and other safe places, as heavy flooding affected 166 barangays and 31 out of 36 municipalities in the province.

Camarines Sur’s Risk Profile

Almost half of Camarines Sur’s municipalities are considered “high-risk areas for flooding”, including 16 towns within the Bicol River floodplains., while 539 out of 882 barangays in the province are classified as having “very high flood susceptibility.”

“Population at risk includes 152,037 residents, including 12,351 IPs and 5,103 Persons with Disabilities (PWDs),” Environment, Disaster Management, and Emergency Response Office (EDMERO) Christian Ian Pan said in an interview with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA)-Camarines Sur.

Twenty-five (25) barangays in ten (10) municipalities in the province are considered with “very high” landslide susceptibility while fifty-three (53) barangays in 17 towns are tagged as highly susceptible to the same hazard.

Several towns in Camarines Sur are also vulnerable to faultlines and earthquakes as it is affected by the Guinayangan faultline which is in the western coastal area near Ragay Gulf. The Legazpi Lineament, considered a “trending linear feature” from Pasacao in the Ragay Gulf area passes through Lake Bato and Legazpi City.

Several cataclysmic and disastrous occurrences have already tested Cam Sur PDRRMC’s effective response, owing to the

various DRRM training, lectures, exercises, and similar activities that strengthened its response capacity, not to mention the full support given by the provincial government.

Just recently, Camarines Sur Governor Vincenzo Renato Luigi R. Villafuerte lauded the PDRRMC for a job well done during Paeng’s operation.

“I want to thank all the frontliners and the EDMERO team for all their hard work and sacrifice during Typhoon Paeng. I am happy to report ZERO casualties in the Province of CamSur,” Villafuerte posted on his FB page.

Benchmarking Activity: Revisiting DRRM best practices

Listed as one of the top ten highly disaster-prone provinces in the country, Camarines Sur PDRRMC decided to embark on a 3-day benchmarking activity to different Provincial DRRM offices and DRRM-related institutions in NCR and CALABARZON from November 13 to 15.

The visit was part of the PDRRMC’s goal to improve the province’s Emergency Operations Center’s (EOC) preparedness and response operations.

Governor Villafuerte expressed his full support to the said endeavor as it is also anchored on his vision of “zero-casualty” in times of disasters.

The 45-man team composed of PDRRMC council members and headed by PDRRMC- Camarines Sur Operations Head John Jiro A. Pingol visited the following PDDRM offices: Quezon, Laguna, Batangas, Bulacan, and Bonifacio Global City (BGC) Taguig Operations Center. The team also scheduled a tour in various DRRM institutions which include the Philippine Coast Guard Diving Facility in Binondo, Manila; 525th Engineer Combat Brigade, Philippine Army in Libis, Quezon City; Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) National DRRMC Operations Center, DOST-PAGASA and DOST-PHIVOLCS.


Quezon PDRRM Officer Melchor Avenilla explained that all their programs are anchored on the HEALING Agenda as expressed by their Governor, Dr. Angelina Helen D.L. Tan.

“Since doctor po ang aming Gobernador,nangunguna po sa kanyang agenda ang Health. It is followed by Economy, Agriculture, Livelihood, Infrastructure, Nature and Environment- dito po nakasabay ang aming DRRM, and of course, good governance. These aspects are being considered in our disaster response,” Avenilla added.

Quezon PDRRMC also invested on partnership and creation of force multipliers to ensure swift and effective disaster response under the “Serbisyong Tunay at Natural” slogan. They also strengthened their collaboration with other stakeholders.

They tapped the assistance of other civil society groups like the Nagkakaisang Pederasyon ng Magsasaka sa Buong Lalawigan ng Quezon, Girl Scout of the Philippines- Southern Luzon Region, Team Energy Pagbilao Power Station, Quezon Power (Phils.), Limited Co., Quezon Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Quezon Association of Risk Management Officers and Responders , Philippine Red Cross-Lucena Chapter, Quezon Kabalikat Civicom and Kabalikat Civicom.

Avenilla also relayed the good news that their requested insurance for the responders was already funded and due for release any time soon. They are now lobbying at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for the hazard pay for both their volunteers and responders.

Just like other DRRMOs, Quezon’s greatest challenge is how to ensure that communication is sustained especially at the height of a typhoon or related calamities.

“In the past, when TELCOs are no longer functional, we lost touch with other areas. One of the innovations that we made is the procurement and distribution of satellite phones in different municipalities, other than VHF radios with synchronized frequency used in the entire province,” Avenilla said.

As of press time, Quezon PDRRMO has prepositioned more or less 20 VSATs in various municipalities as communication tool and 41 satellite phones to be given to LGUs and some council members.

Batangas Magiting’s exemplary DRRM practices

Batangas PDRRMC surpassed the standards stipulated for the establishment and functionality of their local DRRMCs and local DRRMOs pursuant to the provisions of RA 10121, specifically Sections 11 and 12.

This gave them the Beyond Compliant or Excellence rating during the recent 22nd Gawad KALASAG award by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) thru the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD).

Through Provincial Ordinance 001 in 2011, amended by SP Resolution 289 in 2021, Batangas PDRRMC was institutionalized. In 2018, Batangas PDRRMO became a department through SP Resolution No. 765 after it was established under the Office of the Governor through Ordinance No. 010 in 2014.

This further strengthened Batangas’ disaster response and enabled them to adopt and implement a comprehensive and integrated disaster risk reduction program as well as policy formulation that addresses the gaps in responding to different kinds of calamity.

They have an approved Operations Procedure Manual, Pubic Service Continuity Plan (PSCP), conducts regular capacity building trainings for P/LDRRM Council members, and availability of response equipment/ assets, list of pool of trainers and training reports, contingency plans and report of utilization of the DRRM fund, among others.

Also among their listed competencies is the availability of list of evacuation centers per municipality, making it easier for the residents to temporarily leave their residences and proceed to the assigned evacuation centers in times of calamity.

The province also installed Solar Isotropic Generator of Acoustic Wave (SIGAW, an Early Warning System (EWS) for tsunami in 17 LGUs in the province.

“Diversity is very important when it comes to disaster management. You cannot put disaster response in one box. It is very important that we have the multi-stake participation of our partners to effectively respond to disasters,” Batangas PDRRMO Fe D. Fernandez shared during CamSur PDRRMC’s visit.

Batangas PDRRMO Joselito Castro said that the provincial government purchased 1,000 units of multi-purpose service vehicles to be distributed to different barangays to be used in times of calamities and emergencies. As of press time, the supplier was only able to deliver 399 units. They are expecting the rest to be delivered next year.

When it comes to DRRM, Castro said that they have the full backing of their Governor, Hon. Hermilando Mandanas.


What started as a project, is now a significant part of Bulacan PDRRMO.

Bulacan Rescue 566 or the Bulacan Rescue Project is now part of Bulacan PDRRMC after the provincial government recognized its significant role as the only emergency response group in the province up until 2010.

Bulacan PDRRMO Chief Felicisima “Liz” Mungcal said that one of their best assets is their Operations Center which is equipped with communication equipment and technology that receives real-time information from the ground thru CCTVs. Inside the Bulacan OC are numerous monitors showing live feeds from the street, hazard areas, specifically bridges and water ways, among others. It is manned by PDRRMO personnel 24/7 to ensure that all emergencies will be responded the soonest time possible.

“We have 30 CCTVS installed in 30 municipalities for flood mitigation, 20 more in various parts of the capitol compound and there are 15 more units which will be launched before the year ends,” Mungcal added.

Mungcal said that responders should be at the first kilometre of the scene of incident (by land) within the first three minutes after they are dispatched thru the Bulacan 911 call.

“That is our standard turn-around time in responding to disasters. Most of the time, we even come faster than that. Aside from our quick response mechanism, we see to it that every movement, action or dispatch of responders, should be put on paper. Everything should be documented,” Mungcal stated.

Mungcal also lauded the leadership of Bulacan Governor Daniel Fernando especially for his full support to all PDRRMC’s endeavors.

“I think one of the reasons why we are effective is the strong support we are getting from our provincial government. Not only in disaster response, but also in terms of good governance,” Mungcal added.

Just recently, the provincial government of Bulacan received its 6th Seal of Good Governance award, making it as one of the outstanding provinces in the country for 6 consecutive years.

The said province was also awarded the Regional Gawad KALASAG Hall of Fame Award for being the Best Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) from 2010 to 2012. It also received the National Gawad KALASAG Hall of Fame Award for being the Best PDRRMC from 2012 to 2014.

PDRRMC CamSur sets food at the Home of “Mandirigtas”

525th Commanding Officer LTC Carlo ). Ganancial (CE) (GSC) PA, warmly welcomed the PDRRMC CamSur members to their training camp, citing their appreciation of receiving the delegates as the first province who set foot in their training camp.

“The 525th Engineer Combat Battalion is the primary Philippine Army Disaster Response Unit (PA DRU). As you can see, this training camp is meant to prepare our responders by engaging them in various training involving collapsed structure, confined space rescue, K9 and technical rescue, among others,” Ganancial said.

Their responders are also trained in water search and rescue, rubber boat operations, swift water rescue and under water rescue.

Mandirigtas Troopers or Mandirigmang Tagapagligtas are ready to be deployed when their presence and expertise are needed. This is alongside with their mission to “provide combat engineer support to the Philippine Army maneuver units” aside from conducting disaster response operations.

The PDDR Council members were toured around the camp where various state-of-the-art equipment for water rescue, route clearing, explosive demolitions, urban breaching, counter mobility operations, wire obstacle replacement, counter IED, and survivality operations, among others.

PDRRMC Team visits national DRRM offices

To fully understand how the national disaster offices work during disaster and to subsequently learn from their operations, CamSur PDRRMC also visited other national office like the Philippine Coast Guard, DOST PAG ASA, PHIVOLCs and the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD).

OCD “implements and formulates the NDRRMP and ensures that the physical framework, social, economic and environmental plans of the communities, cities and municipalities, including the provinces are consistent with such plan.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Spokesperson Raffy Alejandro welcomed the group and allowed the council members to see how information are fed, in real-time to the various monitors installed inside the Operations Center for their monitoring and course of action.

Advisories are made inside the OC through the various equipment and parameters that determines the risk level of a particular phenomenon, like earthquake, flooding and typhoon signals.

Alejandro said the country is investing on equipment and has adopted programs to ensure resiliency of every community in times of disaster. He added that they are integrating risk-informed planning at the local level to make sure that their programs are aligned with the barangays. NDRRRMC is also continuously pursuing the institutionalization of the disaster risk reduction management program.

The learning experience that the PDRRMC benchmarking team has gathered will be used to level up the response capacity of Camarines Sur and adopt good practices that will help save more lives and mitigate damaging circumstances particularly in hazard prone and vulnerable areas in the province. (PIA 5/Camarines Sur)


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