Imagine people who will calmly pick their disaster kit and head for safer grounds in the peak of a natural disaster.
Unlike the panicked reaction of Cebu City folks during the 6.9-magnitude earthquake last February 6, the residents of San Francisco in Camotes, who are well equipped on disaster preparedness and risk reduction, know what to do and where to go when disaster strikes.
The residents of Camotes Island, which is often visited by typhoons, have managed to transform their island into a model of local governance that equips their community and empowers the residents on solid waste management among others.
Their efforts was recognized by the United Nations, which recently awarded them and made Camotes community as the campaign champion on disaster risk management.
San Francisco Vice Mayor Alfredo Arquillano attributed the success of Camotes transformation to education and information campaign focused on the grassroot level of their barangays.
Arquillano cited the establishment of the purok system since 2004 where the local community organizations were equipped with the understanding and discipline on how to observe proper waste management and disaster preparedness.
He said this was the foundation of the island’s local governance.
“EIC (Education and Information Campaign) is the key so people can understand. We educate them and provide penalties so they will comply and it will be consistent,” Arquillano told Cebu Daily News.
The municipality also set up early disaster warning system like rain gauges that monitors the volume of rainfall, and community-based volunteers, that serve as the emergency response team.
They were one of the 79 towns and cities in the world that adopted the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Making Cities Resilient Campaign.
San Francisco, which is a two-hour boat ride from Cebu, is known for its beaches. The town also manages six marine protected areas.
As you dock on San Francisco’s port, you’d be welcomed by neatly lined stores and anti-littering signs.
All their garbage bins are also segregated into biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste.
Visitors can’t even see unkept garbage bins and scattered plastic bags in the community.
“We just don’t litter. Segregating has become a way of life,” Dario Wenceslao, one of the purok secretaries told Cebu Daily News.
Wenceslao who works as a farmer said that he volunteered full-time on the purok system to facilitate the implementation of programs in their barangay.
Every month, the residents in the community would meet to discuss concerns and follow up on the program implementation.
Their purok office also has the records for their committee expenses, and a complete account of their financial status.
Wenceslao said that it is one of the schemes they decided to prevent disagreements and mistrust in their organization.
They also practice the no segregation no collection policy and residents pay carbon tax based on the domestic waste procured on a daily basis.
Estrera said that they have a 90 to 95 percent participation from the communities of their solid waste management program.
Arquillano said they had already set up templates for other local government units who would want to replicate their system.
He assures that the LGUs could do this in six months.
“All you have to do is start small,” he said.
He said that they planned to tackle poverty alleviation using the same system.
He said that they can get the support of the community on their local programs if it would be done on a community level that will be transparent and consensual.
The municipality will also be the pilot of the climate change adaptation program in partnership with the Climate Change Commission.
He said the program involved planting 2 million endemic or native trees by 2015.
They already planted 148,000 from 2010 until early this year.
Among their endemic trees are tugas, ipil, buyos, nagtalisay and talamban.
Most of the trees are planted around the 600 hectare Danao lake.
Arquillano said that they focused on endemic trees to assure that diversity will flourish in their forest.
“Ecology depends on the sensitive balance of ecosystem. Native tree species should be planted to assure that the original species in the area will be sustained by the native trees,” he said.
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