Saving more lives in less time through disaster-resilient microentrepreneurs
By Sally A. Altea
28 MARCH 2022,SOUTHERN LEYTE – The province of Albay is susceptible to multiple natural and man-made hazards such as flooding, typhoons, fire and volcanic eruption.
Albay is home to the iconic Mayon Volcano, hailed as the world’s most perfect volcanic cone due to the symmetry of its shape. Yet, behind its beauty is the hazard of destructive eruption. The latest violent eruption was in 2018 which displaced at least 40,000 villagers.
Currently, a dangerous eruption looms as it remains on relatively high unrest under Alert Level 3.
Microenterprises as responders and partners for preparedness and recovery
In the midst of these disasters, the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises are among the vulnerable sectors. Yet after the onslaught of calamities, the microenterprises particularly the sari-sari stores and other small-scale enterprises, become the immediate responders as sources of the basic needed commodities in the area.
Groceries and malls usually remain closed after a disaster, while relief operations may take time to reach the affected barangays due to unpassable roads and other infrastructure damages.
Recognizing the vital role of microenterprises in the resiliency and recovery of communities, the Asia Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management Philippines (A-PAD PH) initiated the Microentrepreneurs Enterprise Resiliency Program (MERP), in partnership with the Bicol University Center for Policy Studies and Development (BU CPSD). MERP is development intervention strategy to assist the micro entrepreneurs to make their enterprises resilient and sustainable.
“In this A-PAD project, our focus is the preparedness of micro enterprises aside from the household level community preparedness. We want to highlight that in a community, there are micro enterprises at the core of the livelihood activities in the barangay,” A-PAD PH Program Coordinator Maricris M. Biñas said.
Biñas noted the need to capacitate the micro enterprises on disaster preparedness and resiliency.
“Their preparedness and resiliency is very important for the recovery of communities or even in the daily economic activities. Given that role, they have a big part to play so as not to become victims of disasters but to be partners of the barangay to address concerns on hazards, recovery and resilience,” she said.
The First in Legazpi City
Legazpi City is the pilot area for this program. It is one of the three cities in the province of Albay. Its location makes it naturally susceptible to both natural and man-made hazards. In 2006, typhoons Milenyo, Reming and Seniang devastated the city with hundreds of deaths and millions in damages.
The city is also facing threats and hazards of fire. In 2018, a three-hour fire destroyed a local supermarket in Barangay Bitano. This year, the city’s Bureau of Fire has recorded 29 fire incidents in the last five months. Add on to this, is the immediate perils brought by the Mayon Volcano.
From these common hazards, the A-PAD and Legazpi City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (LCDRRMO) chose the fire and volcanic eruption scenarios for the simulation drills. LCDRRMO Admin Officer Beverly Ann Armeña said simulations drills were usually done in schools and government agencies but it is their first time to involve the micro entrereneurs. This then, addresses the gap in capacitating other vulnerable sectors.
Preparedness against fire and volcanic eruption
Some 150 micro business owners and local officials in three disaster-prone barangays in the city were actively engaged in the simulation drills conducted on May 20, 21 and June 1.
The A-PAD and CDRRMO identified barangays Pigcale, Baybay and Padang as the multi-hazard areas. The coastal barangays of Pigcale and Baybay are situated in the busy business areas of the city. Densely populated with residents and microenterprises, with most of the houses built from light materials and close to one another, fire incidents in these barangays can cause massive damage.
“Based on the hazard profile, barangay Pigcale is multihazard. It is prone to storm surge, typhoon and of course, the Mayon Volcano and the hazard of fire,” Biñas said.
‘’We are encouraging the public to participate in such activities to train them on what to do and be prepared in case of calamities such as fire,’’ Armeña added.
The volcanic eruption and evacuation scenario was conducted in Barangay Padang, a highly hazard-prone area threatened by the hazards of Mayon Volcano.
Padang Barangay Punong Barangay Harold Bembenuto expressed his gratitude for choosing his community as beneficiary of the A-PAD program.
“We are very thankful because this is really part of our contingency plan. The capacity building and the resources that they gave us is a big help especially that our 20% DRRM fund is very limited,” he said.
Empowered micropreneurs and small-scale enterprises
Maribelle Balidoy, a 33-year old mother co-managing the small-time tailor store of his father in barangay Padang, expressed her appreciation to the A-PAD program for microenterprises.
“This drill is of big help for us to be prepared in case of disasters especially that we have personally experienced numerous typhoons and volcanic eruptions. We already have an idea on what we should do if a disaster happens,” Balidoy said.
The 56-year old sari-sari store and poultry owner Arlene Misolas vows to apply her learnings from the trainings and drill.
“Its good that we learned a lot, especially on how we can prepare our small business in case of disasters, she said.
Antonio Bolante, a 62-year old sari-sari store owner, urges his fellow micropreneurs to be capacitated on disaster preparedness.
“(With this A-PAD program), we can immediately prepare and save our resources in case of calamities, especially volcanic eruptions or typhoons. Should a disaster strike, we are prepared,” he said.
Inclusion in the Barangay DRRM Plan
Seeing the significance of disaster preparedness not only at the community level but also on various sectors particularly the microenterprises, Bembenuto affirmed the inclusion of this sector in their DRRM plan.
“With the different hazards that we experienced, we realized that there are sectors that are overlooked and in need of due attention. These include the MSMEs wherein after the calamity, most of them suffer from damages due to lack of sufficient preparation or preparedness,” Bembenuto said.
“We will be studying the response of the micro enterprises. The A-PAD PH has given us inputs on how to determine what they gained from the training and simulation, and how we can improve it,” he added.
As the adage goes, “Experience is the best teacher.” Yet some lessons had to be learned the hard way. This is true in times of disaster, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic which highlighted the crucial role of microenterprises in recovery and resiliency. In those times of lockdowns and restricted movements, the micro enterprises and small-scale business became the source of the communities’ basic necessities. In the midst of challenges, they innovated and implemented adaptive business measures.
May those experiences serve as learning opportunities, a stepping stone towards the transformation of empowered and disaster-resilient microenterprises, who will serve as community partners to save more lives in less time. (PIA5/Albay)
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