Department of Education head calls for review of protocols on natural disasters

January 09, 2019

THE Department of Education yesterday said that it is high time for the government and public to transform the country’s approach to the reduction and management of disaster risks in the face of a continuously changing climate and following the onslaught of tropical depression “Usman.”

Education Secretary Leonor Briones proposed during a meeting on January 4 in Pili, Camarines Sur a review of protocols for government action before, during, and after natural disasters and the public mindset of relying on typhoon signals as basis for assessing potential danger to life and property.

She also highlighted the need to revisit the progress on the proposed creation of a separate department on natural disaster.

“In the previous years, DepEd schools were damaged by strong winds brought about by tropical cyclones and we have been busy preparing for the perfect storm. In Metro Manila, we are bracing for the perfect earthquake. We better prepare for the perfect flood,” Briones said.

The Education chief said although “Usman” was technically described as a tropical depression, its resulting floods and landslides left extensive damage to school buildings and facilities in affected areas.

Repair and replacement of damaged facilities due to “Usman,” typhoon “Ompong,” and typhoon “Rosita” are estimated to use the DepEd’s entire P2 billion Quick Response Fund for 2019.

She said that such damage demands enormous budget for slope protection, higher elevation or transfer of building sites.

However,  Briones said the DepEd has funds for site titling but none for site acquisition.

As floods and landslides happen with greater frequency and inflict severe damage to property, facilities, and equipment even without strong winds as measured by warning system, Briones called on the Cabinet to consider the policy implication of this irreversible trend and make the necessary recommendations to the President.

“We have seen this in Guinsaugon, Southern Leyte, Biliran, Leyte, Quezon, Los Baños, Laguna, Cagayan de Oro, and Iligan, as well as in Lanao del Norte,” she said.

“The financial, organizational, and administrative requirements for dealing with natural disasters cannot be managed by the government alone. All sectors of society have to be mobilized and activated to help ensure the safety of lives and the continuity of education,” the DepEd head said.