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Red Cross launches flood resiliency project in Pangasinan

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By Hilda Austria (PNA)

MANGATAREM, Pangasinan -- The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Pangasinan chapter, in partnership with the local government unit of Mangatarem, has chosen four barangays here as pilot areas of a project that aims to capacitate residents and students in facing disasters.

In an interview Thursday, PRC Pangasinan chapter chairman Maybelyn Fernandez said the Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction and Flood Resiliency Management of Communities (CBDRR-FRMC) project will provide mitigation trainings that are most needed in the four barangays.

Flood Resiliency Alliance and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have identified barangays Silag, Pampano, Valerio, and Sawat as highly susceptible to floods.

These barangays, with 7,904 population or 2,228 households, are located along the Agno River, as well as 10 other barangays of this town.

Agno River serves as the catch basin of other tributaries, and a spillway of a dam, making the areas around it flood-prone.

“Based from the assessment last year, the highest flooding was recorded in these barangays. Considering their topography and the population as well as the budget for disaster, they are considered the most vulnerable in the province,” Fernandez said.

She said the project will run for three to five years, which will also include communities and schools.

“They will be taught to prepare not only themselves but also their properties when disaster (specifically flooding) strikes, while small-scale mitigations will be done in the areas identified depending on the needs on the ground. So the cooperation of the community is very important,” Fernandez added.

PRC Pangasinan chapter administrator Florame Sanchez said the project will serve as a link between the communities, the municipal government, the provincial government, and the national government agencies.

“We will fill the gap between the local government units and national government agencies concerned. We will capacitate the communities and facilitate the mitigations but the communities will themselves scout for funding,” Sanchez said.

Rex Vincent Escano, San Carlos City branch coordinator, said they are still in the data gathering and assessment part of the project.

“We are done with Silag and we will now proceed to the next barangay for data gathering. This is important for us to know what specific training or mitigation the communities need. But at the same time, we are also conducting trainings on first aid and community-based disaster management for the members of the Barangay Committee who were recipients of the PRC’s cash transfer program last year,” Escano said in an interview Thursday.

Meanwhile, Mangatarem Municipal Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Officer Engr. Edward Soquilla commended the project, and affirmed that it is timely.

“All our lives, we encounter flooding. Even our schools were not spared. Most of the documents in our schools are always swept by flood. The number one challenge still remains, that is on how to evacuate the people and how to give them proper orientation. The project will be a big help as the outcomes of the data gathering we will include these in our plan since the Department of the Interior and Local Government is now requiring us to submit a three-year plan for disaster management,” he said.

Soquilla added the national government, through the Department of Public Works and Highways, is currently implementing dike construction project along some portions of the Agno River to ease flooding in their areas.