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Rhaydz B. Barcia
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The Manila Times, Reuters and Bicol Mail
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Strong partner of Office of Civil Defense, Albay Public Safety Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) for disaster risk management reporting in Albay province including Centre for Initiative Research for Climate Change Adaptation (CIRCA) and of Regional Disaster Coordinating Council (RDCC) in Bicol region, Philippines.
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Rhaydz B. Barcia
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Correspondent and photographer of The Manila Times for almost 10 years covering Bicol Region, Philippines, Stringer-Reuters and of Bicol Mail. Bicol region is the most disaster prone region throughout the Philippines due to geographical location. Member of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Regional Science and Nutrition communication network in Bicol region, Philippines.

Disaster managers gather for ‘irilawan’ to prepare for coming bad weather

By Rhaydz Barcia Correspondent

LEGAZPI CITY: Through a symbolic bonfire off the coast of the Naval Forces Southern Luzon on Sunday night of disaster managers, responders and various stakeholders in Bicol, forged a strong partnership in the quest of delivering better service during the advent of bad weather here.

Disaster managers in Bicol gather near a symbolic bonfire off the coast of the Naval Forces Southern Luzon on Sunday night as they forge a strong partnership to deliver better service in the advent of bad weather disturbances here. PHOTO BY RHAYDZ BARCIA
The symbolic program for disaster camaraderie and unity was spearheaded by the Tactical Operations Group 5-Philippine Air Force (TOG 5-PAF) in Bicol in partnership with the Rotary Club of Legazpi and the National Rescue and Disaster Response Association through the irilawan (campfire) with the theme “Lighting the torch and spreading the flame of fellowship and service” held at Philippine Navy’s Southern Luzon command here.

The irilawan beach party solemnized the unique gathering of disaster managers, media practitioners, local officials, poets, musicians and various civic organizations, academe, youth sector and all responders involved in life saving measures.

Air Force Col. Guillermo Molina, commander of TOG 5-PAF told disaster officials and responders here that the gathering is aimed to elicit strong commitment from all attendees to come together to respond to the threat of anticipated disaster which normally hit Bicol in the third and fourth quarters of the year.

Bicol region—the typhoon prone region in the country—is usually hit by strongest typhoons in the third and fourth quarters of the year associated with floods resulting mudslide, landslides and other destruction wrought by weather disturbances including outbreak of airborne diseases.

The irilawan concept is a bonfire fellowship party participated by disaster managers, Rotarians including more than 20 Australian medical team from Canterbury, Melbourne Australia and Bacolod Rotarians set to conduct weeklong free medical check up across the province targeting at least 28,000 impoverished communities here.

Torch bearer

“All of us are torch bearer and life saver irrespective of our status in life. So the main objective of this event is to celebrate interagency cooperation and synergy through fellowship in the form of a big bonfire soiree seeking to fulfill three purposes first to welcome the arrival of 22-person Australian medical team from the Rotary Club of Canterbury, Melbourne who are aiming to provide free medical mission targeting 28,000 patients in nine municipalities of Albay, second to raise massive public awareness on disaster preparedness and to celebrate belatedly TOG 5’s eight anniversary,” Molina said.

Consistent with the theme, Molina and the provincial government of Albay through Center for Initiative and Research on Climate Adaptation led by Nong Rangasa requested this reporter to showcase photographs related to disaster occurrences in Bicol region.

Photo exhibit

The on-site photo exhibit of this writer depicting the images of recent, past disasters and readiness drills in Bicol region conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and provincial government of Albay are being displayed during the irilawan.

These photographs will also be showcased in the upcoming “Governor’s League Summit on Climate Change on October 28 to 29 in this city and in various schools across the province according to Rangasa.

Cedric Daep, chief of Albay Public Safety emergency Management Office who represented Gov. Joey Salceda of Albay lauded the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Bicol for its indefatigable support to the provincial government of Albay and assistance to the Bicolanos particularly the Albayanos during disaster.

“We’re totally grateful to the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force because without them, we will not accomplished the zero casualty target of the government. The air asset of Philippine Air Force is a good support for the detection of Mayon Volcano, which prevented the loss of lives here. The detection of lava dome needs to be determined using air asset of PAF-TOG 5 to save the people from hazard,” Daep said.

While, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) regional director Bernardo “Raffy” Alejandro of Bicol said that as chief of OCD he had seen firsthand the power of unity and cooperation in overcoming obstacles.

Strength in numbers

“During the many calamities that have struck the region, things would have been near impossible had we acted individually. But by working as one, our individual strengths were multiplied a hundredfold. Thanks to the many partner agencies including non-government organizations both local and international working with us,” Alejandro said.

“Personally, the enormous burden of safeguarding the lives of countless people was much lighter thanks to their support. With all the hardships that we have faced together in the past, I am happy that this time around, our gathering is held in good tidings rather than in the wake of some tragedy,” Alejandro said.

Alejandro also said that TOG 5 has been a dependable asset to the OCD Bicol and the rest of Southern Luzon in disaster response measures here. “May our agencies continue to work together in synergy for the benefit of all. I sincerely hope that this event become a lasting tradition. May the spirit of friendship and camaraderie fill everyone’s hearts and minds as we respond to disaster,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Joey Salceda of Albay expressed gratitude to the Rotary Clubs (RC) of Cantebury, Melbourne, Australia, RC of Bacolod North and RC of Legazpi West for weeklong medical missions-cataract, hearing, dental and feeding in nine municipalities here.

“This is well-timed intervention as pre-emptive healthcare if the current La Niña triggers evacuation in these highly vulnerable areas—particularly the floodplains of third district, and populations particularly schoolchildren,” Salceda said.

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