Negros Occidental can hardly be considered a “sleepy” province. Once in a while, the province is rocked with disasters. It is home to Mt. Kanlaon, one of the 22 active volcanoes in the country. Six major rivers cause flooding in at least 17 areas during typhoons. The Negros Trench is an earthquake threat to 16 towns and cities. Sugar plantations are host to vehicular accidents and other man-made disasters.
But the provincial government and the people are no fatalists. Disaster management efforts were strengthened in 1996 and further enhanced in 2001 when a comprehensive program was introduced.
Dubbed “Amlig-Kabuhi”, Visayan for “saving lives”, the program aims to provide quicker and more organized response to disasters and to mobilize a sustainable pool of trained and committed volunteers for rescue operations.
In 2001, the Provincial Disaster Management Team (PDMT) was formed to serve as the secretariat of the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council. The PDMT is a multi-agency body that manages both pre-disaster preparedness and post-disaster response and management. It also acts as the nerve center of 45 rescue groups with the strength of 4,570 well-trained volunteers.
The province has also established a Public Safety Academy, the first rescue-training center in the country.
With the disaster management system, proper equipment and facilities in place, the response time for emergency calls is now guaranteed at 20 minutes or less to anywhere within the province’s 7,900 square kilometer area, which covers 19 towns and 12 cities.
“The right of every person to live is inherent. The provincial government, together with the private sector, ensures that this right is respected and protected,” says Governor Joseph Marañon.
True enough, the province has been recording lesser number of human casualties from disasters. With the same number of annual typhoons and flooding incidents, the number of victims has been steadily decreasing from 58 in the year 2000, 38 in 2001, and 18 in 2002.
According to Governor Marañon, the program was able to reduce damages to property from P150 million in 2001 down to P75 million in 2002.
Negros Occidental’s efforts to avert and minimize the impact of disasters have translated to substantial savings from relief operations and rehabilitation of damages. These savings are reverted to the general fund for development programs such as rural electrification and street-lighting projects.
With Amlig-Kabuhi, the 2.5 million population of disaster-prone Negros Occidental can sleep well at night knowing that help will always be on the way.