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Investing in resilience

/ 05:02 AM September 21, 2019

The best time to invest in disaster resilience, preparedness, prevention and mitigation is well before a natural disaster strikes. By the time a typhoon or earthquake hits or a volcano erupts, it’s too late. It sounds obvious, but is nonetheless something we need to keep reminding ourselves and practicing.

This is the basic principle and philosophy behind the work of the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), a private foundation organized to focus on all stages of disaster risk management—from preparedness to response and recovery. Since Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name Haiyan) in 2013, we’ve built a large portfolio of programs around this principle and continue to expand on that work.

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This week, we’ve been holding our second annual Brown University-PDRF Humanitarian Field Program at our Emergency Operations Center in Clark, Pampanga. This year’s theme is focused on innovation and coordination in international and local humanitarian coordination. This program brings together almost 50 fellows and 32 faculty, resource persons and facilitators for one week of lectures, workshops and simulation exercises on humanitarian work and disaster risk reduction management.

Most of these fellows are from local government units (LGUs), national government agencies, private sector, nongovernment organizations, and universities from across the Philippines. Four fellows are from Indonesia, Vietnam and Australia. To manage the course, we’ve brought together an international faculty from the Philippines, United States, Israel, Indonesia and Singapore in a program codesigned by Brown University’s Watson Institute and PDRF.

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The program ends today with a pitch session for groups to compete for prize money to turn innovation project ideas into “proofs of concept.” It’s a way for fellows to really test out their innovations in the field, with a view to improving humanitarian coordination.

Programs like these are important because they not only raise skills levels; they also build networks, relationships and bonds—all of which are important in the field when an actual natural disaster strikes. Knowing whom to call, what to ask for and what to do are just part of the returns you get when you invest in resilience well in advance of an actual emergency.

The Brown University-PDRF program is just one of many resilience programs we invest in and operate at PDRF. Here’s a quick rundown of our portfolio of present projects that form our investment in resilience.

PrepLab. PDRF runs training sessions under its PrepLab program. Since 2015, almost 5,000 individuals have undergone training in such topics as Weather 101 (with Weather Philippines, a PDRF partner), Raid Earthquake Damage Assessment (with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology), Family Preparedness and other topics. Education and training remain among the most effective means of getting people prepared for disasters.

Business Continuity. One of the things we have observed is that micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) have difficulty rebounding from a calamity, mainly because they have no business continuity plan for their enterprises. Many people tend to think that business continuity programs are for larger businesses because they can afford them. Yet, MSMEs account for over 99 percent of all businesses and 63 percent of employment. Moreover, many of these MSMEs are suppliers of larger corporations. If this part of the supply chain fails, even larger companies will have difficulty operating after a calamity.

In response to this need, PDRF developed a Business Continuity course for MSMEs, and now sits as a member of the National Resilience Core Group for MSME Disaster Resilience. Working with the Department of Trade and Industry, we’ve trained over 7,000 MSMEs in 14 regions on business continuity. We also recently launched the MSME Guidebook on Disaster Resilience and a mobile app on business continuity.

Public Service Continuity. Working closely with the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), PDRF also helped develop the government’s Public Service Continuity Program (the government equivalent of business continuity) as well as the manual for national line agencies and local government units. As an implementing partner of OCD, PDRF has helped capacitate over 400 government personnel and produced 45 Public Service Continuity trainers so the program can scale up and cover all government agencies and LGUs.

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In the Philippines, natural disasters are not a question of “if” but “when” they will occur. An investment in resilience will pay off in many ways: Lives saved, property and assets protected, and better public services are just some of the benefits. Call it the Resilience Dividend.

Guillermo M. Luz is chief resilience officer of PDRF (www.pdrf.org).

Business Matters is a project of the Makati Business Club ([email protected]).

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