CEBU, Philippines – A tourist destination in Cebu is a model for disaster risk reduction.
Community preparedness helped the town of San Francisco, not just survive Typhoon Haiyan, but achieve zero casualty.
Pia Ranada reports.
Thousands died in Eastern Visayas from Typhoon Haiyan. But one island in Cebu managed the impossible: zero casualty.
San Francisco town, one of the two islands in Camotes is a tourist paradise. White sand beaches, pristine water in shades of blue and green. But the island is special in another way.
The purok system that saved 100% of locals from Haiyan’s devastation. Former mayor Alfredo Arquillano Jr developed the purok system in 2004.
ALFREDO ARQUILLANO JR, FORMER MAYOR, SAN FRANCISCO TOWN: The smallest form of government is barangay, pero dito sa atin, mas maliit pa ang purok. Kasi isang barangay average of 7 to 8 puroks. The entire municipality of San Francisco, there are about 120 puroks and the municipality meron siyang 15 barangays. (The smallest form of government is barangay but here, the purok is smaller. A barangay has, on average, 7 to 8 puroks.)
Each purok is led by a purok chairperson.
Fe Aris says they are organized to serve the community 24/7 and not just for disaster risk reduction. Different committees are assigned to health, solid waste management and education.
FE ARIS, PRESIDENT, PUROK BOGO: Para among makita ang among pinaghiusa sa mga katawhan labaw na pagpanglimpyo sa among lugar para sad nga pati na sa among panglawas, makalikay mi sa sakit. (So the community can come together and help. Especially to maintain the cleanliness of our area. And also our health, to avoid getting sick.)
The puroks proved vital to San Francisco’s survival during Haiyan.
MONICA TAN, RESEARCH AND PLANNING OFFICER, SAN FRANCISCO MDDRMO: Kasi kung barangay ka lang at wala kang purok system, hindi mo masaturate lahat. You cannot get all the participation pero if you have the small units, the small organization na grupo grupo na sila, mas mapadali. (Because if you're a barangay without a purok system, you won't be able o reach everyone. You cannot get all the participation but if you have the small units, the small organizations that are in groups, it gets easier.)
Located in an islet, Tulang Diyot is the most vulnerable purok in San Francisco.
The quick mobilization of the purok leaders saved more than 200 families.
MONICA TAN, RESEARCH AND PLANNING OFFICER, SAN FRANCISCO MDDRMO: I think two days before the typhoon, yung iba nasa evacuation center na. Kahit hindi pa nag-abiso, through communication pa lang mga barangay officers na merong typhoon, ready yung purok officers. (Even without an advisory, through the communication with barangay officers that there is a typhoon, the purok officers were ready to man the fort. They didn't need to wait for a barangay official to visit and help them. That's the beauty of the system. They have self-reliance to do their preparedness.)
Puroks educate their members on disasters. They know who are vulnerable to calamities.
But above all, puroks bring people together. Purok meetings allow locals to interact with their neighbors and gain each other's trust.
This island in Cebu shows a united community is a prepared community.
Pia Ranada, Rappler, Cebu.
Other stories on model communities for disaster preparedness:
The research for this case study was supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.