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Philippines disaster-prone but successful in risk reduction program
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippines is one of the most disaster-vulnerable countries on earth but it found itself a place among the leaders when it comes to heeding the United Nations’ Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) call for school safety from disasters or calamities.

Margareta Wahlstrom, special representative of the secretary general for disaster risk reduction and head of the UNISDR said that for 15 years of handling the same situation, she noticed that there are not enough safe schools built and some of those standing are of low standard.

”Everyone should be responsible and watchful when it comes to the quality of building construction. Here in the Philippines, I noticed that you have strong cooperation among the civil society, local governments, World Bank, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), UNICEF and the UN organizations as a whole that is why your programs are successful,” said Wahlstrom. 

Among the countries that are members of the UNISDR are Mexico, Turkey, India, China, Lao PDR, Indonesia and the Philippines.

”We did not campaign to be counted among the leading 15 disaster risk reduction countries but the Philippines was chosen because we volunteered,” said Dr. Jerry Velasquez, chief of advocacy and outreach of UNISDR in an overview of UN Global Programme on Safe Schools launching at the Department of Education (DepEd), Bulwagan ng Karunungan, DepEd Complex at Pasig City.

Velasquez said that to gauge to the safety of a school, three things must be considered such as the structural safety of the building, excellent preparedness of the staff and personnel, monitoring and sharing of experiences (past and present) and sound practices before, during and after natural or man-made calamities.

Luistro, on the other hand, said “We are in the most dangerous zone where tsunamis, earthquakes storm surges and difficult to reach islands are common. We have to have partners during global disasters and we must remember that this problem is everybody’s concern.”

Luistro added that resilience of the Filipinos in times of adversity is most important—it is what sets as apart from other nations.

"What happened during the powerful Yolanda devastation in the Visayas has shown to the world that we can afford to smile genuinely despite the untold suffering that wiped out families and properties.

”We are able to identify 33,000 schools with visual digital mapping; we are able to pass to students through our curriculum how to face everything on disasters.

"We have set building standards that show a structure must be able to withstand an intensity nine earthquake and strong wind velocity in the construction of 2014 schools in the Visayas and some parts of Mindanao,” he said.

He emphasized that in the 11th and 12th senior high school curriculum, earth preservation, science and mathematics, including disasters/calamities risk reduction lessons will be given priority.