By Danny O. Calleja

kalasag3LEGAZPI CITY, Mar 29 (PNA) – Fresh from winning the national championship crown—its second in two consecutive years–of the Gawad Kalasag Awards, the local government here is taking this year the final segment of its path leading to the Hall of Fame of the same contest. Attesting to facts that this key Bicol metropolis–officially recognized as one of the three most livable cities in the country today, is indeed a place where everyone is safe from both natural and man-made calamities, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) last Thursday awarded to the city government the same crown it first won in 2013.

The national championship crown represents the city government’s continuing excellence in disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) performed by its City DRRM Council (CDRRMC) that once again proved its supremacy in this area of local governance over other component and independent cities in the country. The award was conferred at Camp Aguinaldo to City Mayor Noel Rosal and CDRRMC action officer Wilfredo “Pecos” Intia by NRRRMC chair and National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and NDRRMC executive director and Civil Defense administrator Alexander Pama during awarding ceremonies in conclusion of the 2014 search for the 16th Gawad Kalasag.

Other than this city, 27 other winners including Barangay Oro Site here which also retained the national championship crown it won in the 2013 search for the Best DRRMC in the Urban Barangay Category–were also awarded during the occasion. Gawad Kalasag is a nationwide award being given yearly in recognition of the outstanding performances of local government units (LGUs) including barangays as well as civil society organizations, private and public service institutions and volunteer groups in DRRM and in humanitarian assistance. Launched in 1998, the awards is among the national government’s mechanism in obtaining sustained commitment and support from DRRM practitioners in strengthening the resilience and adaptive capacities of the country and communities to disaster risks by recognizing their exceptional contributions.

Kalasag stands for Kalamidad at Sakuna, Labanan, Sariling Galing ang Kaligtasan and since the 2014 championship crowns were second in two consecutive years for both the city and Barangay Oro Site, they would be gunning for the Hall of Fame in this year’s search. “While we have already proven the excellence of our DRRM, our obsession now is focused on improvements toward perfection not only to land in the Hall of Fame of Gawad Kalasag but primarily on sustaining our attainment of ‘zero casualty’ and resilience in the face of disasters,” Rosal told the Philippine News Agency on Sunday. That awarded excellence does not erase the fact that calamities remain a threat given the city’s geographical setting that is exposed to typhoons, volcanic eruptions and other forms of natural hazards so, “we have to work for more”, Rosal, who also heads the CDRRMC as its chairman said.

“This inspires us towards ensuring further that the city is indeed a very livable place not only for Legazpeños but also for the thousands of people coming on a year-round basis to our place as tourists, visitors, students, shoppers, businessmen and delegates of dozens of national and international conventions, seminars, conferences, sports competitions and other grand occasions that choose the city as venue,” he said. The city was cited last year as among the three winners in the first Livable City Challenge organized by the National Competitive Commission (NCC), APEC 2015 National Organizing Council (NOC), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Reconstruction (ASSURE) and Asia Society and Urban Land Institute (ULI). Iloilo City won the first place followed by this city which got the second spot and by Cebu that placed third in that competition which measured their respective strategic visions and plans for a resilient and livable city. For Barangay Oro Site chieftain Joseph Philip Lee, this latest award serves as an affirmation of their BDRRMC’s being the country’s model in its category in DRRM programs and a challenge for them to sustain its gains in the coming years. Lee said, he dedicates this new national championship award to all the people of Oro Site who have been very supportive of the BDRRMC in making the barangay calamity-resilient and every household disaster-ready and vigilant all the time. “We intend to improve further from what we have achieved which gave us the award for the second time. This would be done by way of learning more on disaster preparedness, mitigation and resiliency from national agencies promoting the same, among them the NDRRMC and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST),” he said.

According to Intia, the city and Barangay Oro Site won the Gawad Kalasag National Awards for the second time this year because both the CDRRMC and BDRRMC achieved the national framework for disaster management required by the NDRRMC – which includes the areas of mitigation, preparedness, response and rescue and rehabilitation and recovery. “We got our toughness against calamities from the painful lessons we’ve had from various disasters several years back—one of them was the February 1993 Mt. Mayon eruption that killed 75 villagers of the city who were caught by the sudden avalanche of super-hot volcanic materials while farming at the lower slope of the volcano,” Intia said. After that incident, the city government worked on the permanent relocation to a safer place of all residents in barangays within the danger zone of the volcano, he said. The other one was from the catastrophic impact of two super typhoons — Milenyo and Reming that battered in late 2006 the city as severely as if it was the doomsday killing over 1,200 people who were swept by the massive flashflood that hit some of its low-lying barangays. “Amidst those devastating scenarios, the badly shaken spirit of the city regained its composure promptly and the herculean character its administration has developed for the local government and instilled among the governed swiftly roused back to work towards speedy recovery,” he recalled. Now, life does not only continue to bloom in this city after those disasters. It has been getting livelier and highly livable as the city administration continues to nourish its booming economy and explore more opportunities to rise high not only in DRRM but also in tourism and private business investments leading towards inclusive growth and development, he added. (PNA)