UMCOR Philippines and local government staff and volunteers bring relief aid to neighborhoods in Rosario, Cavite, where floodwaters were still knee-high last Friday. UMCOR Philippines Director Ciony Eduarte is at center.
By Salvador G. Eduarte, Jr.*
August 29, 2013—After last week’s Tropical Storm Trami and a southwest monsoon joined forces to pummel the capital of the Philippines and neighboring towns, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) mobilized to bring relief aid to impacted neighborhoods and also witnessed the fruits of earlier community disaster-awareness training.
The province of Cavite, where the UMCOR Philippines office is located, just 11 miles from the heart of the capital, Manila, was among the areas hardest hit. Cavite and its coastal districts were battered by the torrential rains spawned by the monsoon and by Trami (known locally as Maring), which hovered over the northern part of the country for three days.
UMCOR Philippines staff and volunteers responded to a call for relief goods, specifically food packages, in the coastal town of Rosario, where the people already were suffering the effects of another disaster: environmental and economic dislocation caused when a tanker owned by Petron Corp. provoked a massive oil spill on August 8, less than two weeks before the onslaught of the rains.
In coordination with local officials, UMCOR distributed 300 food packages to residents of Muzon 1, a baranggay, of Rosario. (Baranggays are the smallest, most local unit of governance in the Philippines, and the leader, or captain, of a barangay is elected by the people.) Ciony Ayo-Eduarte, director of UMCOR Philippines, and Baranggay Captain Conrad Abutin led the team of volunteers that carried out the distribution.
Ruby Padernal, 39, a mother of four, was among the beneficiaries at one relocation site. She said the oil spill and now the waist-deep floodwaters had severely impacted the Rosario community, especially their livelihoods.
“I am very thankful that UMCOR came to our community to distribute relief goods,” Padernal added. “Because of your help and presence in our community, I feel that God is indeed merciful and compassionate to help us in times of desperation and need,” she said, teary-eyed.
The food packages were distributed on a house-to-house basis. Volunteers and staff went directly to the homes that were submerged in floodwaters to give out the food items. At one point, they had to use a banca, or small boat, to reach the targeted area.
Disaster Risk Reduction Management
The municipality of Rosario is a beneficiary of a joint program of UMCOR and the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) focused on building resilient communities through disaster risk reduction management (DRRM). Muzon is one of the baranggays that has a contingency plan, an early warning system, and trained local disaster respondents. A rain gauge that is being monitored by the entire municipality has been installed in their area, as has a structure to monitor the seawater level.
In an interview, Baranggay Captain Abutin said the DRRM has helped the community a lot to respond to disasters in their locality. “We were able to use the contingency plan that we put into place after all the assessments we did (hazard, vulnerability, and capacity). We were able to maximize our small budget to respond to the needs of our people,” he indicated.
Abutin further explained that “the mayor of the town himself has embraced the concept of recognizing our local capacities. That’s why we did not ask for support outside our network and we are trying our best to respond using our local resources.”
He said the UMCOR / IIRR project has helped the community a great deal to be prepared for and, ultimately, to avoid disasters. Rosario recorded zero casualties after last week’s flooding, a clear testament to DRRM’s effectiveness.
In fact, during UMCOR's first visit to Muzon I and Muzon II, relief goods were not distributed because the baranggay captains said their communities did not need them and that they would proceed to identify more vulnerable communities that did. Indeed, the leaders of Rosario have integrated the tools and concepts of DRRM, and local solutions to the habitual flooding in the area are becoming structural in nature.
In this event, UMCOR also supported Rosario by purchasing the smoked fish produced by local fisher folks for inclusion in the food packages UMCOR distributed. Eduarte explained that this is one way of empowering the local economy. “In this way,” she said, “we support people’s livelihoods, especially after the two devastations they have experienced.”
Eduarte thanked all the volunteers and local officials for their unwavering commitment to serve the residents of Rosario in their hour of need.
Your gift to Philippines Emergency, UMCOR Advance #240235, will help UMCOR continue to respond to relief and long-term recovery needs in the Philippines and to continue the DRRM training that is helping communities prepare for and, ultimately, avoid disasters.
*Salvador G. Eduarte, Jr., is a professor at Philippine Christian University and a volunteer with UMCOR Philippines.