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Proactive Participation in improving preparedness

When one think of Malabon City, chances are they think of flooded streets that could go for days even after the rain had subsided, or, even when there is no rain. The city sits below sea-level that is why it is prone to flooding.

Through the years, the city has built infrastructures like the Mega Flood Control Project, enhancing their river wall’s height, and by keeping good maintenance of their pumping stations to mitigate the threat of flooding. If these systems in place get bogged down, that is the only time when flood stays for long. The people may already gotten used to or has adapted very well in a life full of floods, but the Malabon Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (MDRRMO) sought for ways in improving their response to disaster.

“The office had just been established and all I have there was a table and a whiteboard”, MDRRMO Head, Roderick Tongol recalls, “the city government was in transition from the incumbent Mayor to the newly elected one, and that was when Habagat (2012) poured down heavy rains. We all got overwhelmed. We didn’t have any preparation whatsoever or even some equipment to use in response to the disaster. We were all just relying on the help extended by national government agencies, non-government organizations (NGO), and the private sector.” Roderick adds that their approach on responding to disaster has always been reactive. “We only start to prepare and organize when we are already expecting for a typhoon coming our way, but with the help of some NGOs we have become more prepared even before calamity strikes.”

Move Up Project has given MDRRMO trainings and workshops not only on disaster risk reduction and management, but also on climate change adaptation and ecosystem management and restoration.  “The modules they shared with us has been very helpful, because it gave us a better understanding on disaster preparedness. If we haven’t been given this knowledge, we would only act in compliance to the issuance from the National Government,” Roderick shares. But persuading the community to believe in the project became a challenge. “At first, people were hesitant with the idea of joining workshops and trainings, because they were used to just being reactive to emergency situations.” This mindset got turned around after close to a thousand families were suddenly left homeless in a blaze.

“Back in 2018, Barangay Catmon was hit by a big fire. This also highlighted Move Up’s Alternative Temporary Shelter (ATS). Before, when families were brought to the evacuation centers, they were left to look after themselves with all of their belongings lying around,” Roderick explains, “with the introduction of ATS, families had their own spaces where they can secure their things and more privacy and dignity, after going through a calamity which resulted to losing their homes. I believe that was the first time in Move Up Project where we applied to an actual scenario what we have learned from the trainings and studies. It also got easier to explain to the communities, why disaster preparedness is important and why they need to adapt it, because we already have an example to show with them.”

He believes that everyone’s participation is important in building a city that could handle challenges brought by a calamity. “We have to get the communities involved from the very beginning, so that they would take ownership of the project. I have seen how Move Up approach people, with more patience and understanding. And what is what we are trying to emulate when we go down to the communities. We value this learning because it helps us bridge the gap between our government workers and the people.”

The work never stops for the MDRRMO Head. “We continue our studies, search for the best practices, and our partnerships with civil society organizations that has a wide range of experience and expertise,” Roderick says, “actually, I am currently taking my Masters in Crisis and Disaster Management from which I believe would be a big help for me and for the city. I am classmates with people from all over the country and this would allow us to share our experience with each other.”