PHILSSA Learns from Taiwan’s DRRM Efforts
PHILSSA conducted a three-day Learning Exchange with the National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction (NCDR) in Taiwan last January 8-10, 2018.
The Learning Exchange was part of the Financial Enablers Project: Urban Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Resilience in Greater Manila Region. Funded by START Network, this consortium project was implemented by the PHILSSA Secretariat and its nine (9) member NGOs such as ALTERPLAN, COM, FDA, FDUP, HEALTHDEV, IDEALS, SIKAT, TAO-Pilipinas, and UPA. ALTERPLAN served as the consortium lead of the project while PHILSSA was the project secretariat.
Eight (8) staffs of the consortium members participated in the learning exchange to learn from the experiences and strategies of Taiwan on urban disaster preparedness, response and rehabilitation and the community-based disaster risk reduction and management (CBDRRM) programs of their urban communities through NCDR.
NCDR is a national center in Taiwan designed for upgrading capacity of disaster risk reduction through practical implementations of science and technology. It was established after the destructive Chi-Chi Earthquake that hit Taiwan in 1999. The tremendous destructions and severe casualties brought about by the earthquake indicated the importance of introducing science and technology into disaster management. NCDR currently serves as a think-tank to the government of Taiwan for providing scientific recommendations on disaster mitigation.
On the first day of the learning exchange, the participants visited the NCDR Office and were introduced to Taiwan’s smart preparedness for the next big one and their CBDRRM practices. Dr. Wei-Sen Li, the Secretary General of the NCDR gave a presentation on the disaster risks and past events in Taiwan and the lessons learned and mitigations done after the big Chi-Chi earthquake in 1999. These mitigations include retrofitting of old schools, major modifications in seismic design codes and installation of Palert, an earthquake early warning system that allows 4-10 seconds early warning of an approaching earthquake. He also shared about the open data platform for disaster information and their operation system to integrate all stakeholders in disaster preparedness and response. Dr.Gloria Yi-Chung Liu talked about the initiatives of Taiwan in localizing the preparedness and mitigation measures into the villages. Like in the Philippines, Taiwan’s CBDRRM approach involves Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and Participatory Assessment of Disaster Risks (PADR) in the communities. Their government authorizes the fire department to head the emergency responders since they have the special skills and knowledge needed. A tour of the NCDR facilities and the Central Emergency Operations Center (EOF) facilities was also done.
The next two days of the learning visit were spent in conducting partner and community visits. Two urban communities were visited by the group. These were Qianzhu Village in Taichung City and Mingxing Village in Taipei City. Qianzhu Village is a small community located near a river that has experienced flooding in the previous years. One of their CBDRRM innovative initiatives is the installation of anti-flooding gates in their residences to help reduce the risk of flooding in the area. Mingxing Village is mostly composed of residents that are living in medium rise condominiums. To mitigate flooding in their community, they are advocating for the community the use of the functional pavement with special design of holes absorbing the water get into the drainage.
Both communities have CBDRRM Committees that conduct awareness raising activities, urban gardening, and other initiatives. The local and central government provide financial support to the communities for their disaster risk reduction efforts. NCDR also gives awards annually to top ten communities with the best CBDRRM.
Moreover, the participants visited World Vision which is a strong partner of the central government in community development and disaster response and rehabilitation in Taiwan, the 921 Earthquake Museum in Taichung City and the Taipei City Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
Taiwan’s good practices in urban disaster preparedness and response and CBDRRM made the participants appreciate the importance of putting public safety as a priority concern of the government and the value of utilizing science and technology in disaster risk reduction. Investing well in scientific researches and technological innovations will lead to more accurate and timely responses. Taiwan’s central and local governments’ financial support to the communities for their DRRM initiatives and the clear delineation between the central or national and local governments are also admirable.
Taiwan seems to be more advanced in terms of the technological innovations in urban disaster preparedness and response but the CBDRRM efforts in the Philippines are more competent. We have stronger and more empowered communities and people’s organizations that are committed to working towards good CBDRRM even with minimal financial support from the government.