Philippines: How WFP And USAID Helped Prepare Sorsogon For Typhoon Glenda

Typhoon Glenda destroyed houses and other infrastructures in Sorsogon.
Photo credit: WFP Philippines/Faizza Tanggol

One never knows the effectiveness of a disaster preparedness and response programme until a disaster strikes. So how did communities in Sorsogon fare when Typhoon Glenda (international name: Rammasun) hit their province?

The Disaster Preparedness and Response (DPR) initiatives of the World Food Programme (WFP), funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), was recently tested when strong winds and rains battered the province of Sorsogon on Wednesday, the 15th of July this year. 

Typhoon Glenda stayed in Sorsogon for only four hours but it took the lives of two people and injured eight.  The devastation it left in its wake amounted to seven billion pesos worth of damages to agriculture, fisheries, livestock, houses, and government infrastructures.

“We were seriously hit by the typhoon,” said Casiguran Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Officer (MDRRMO) Luisito Mendoza.

“We compare this (Typhoon Glenda) to Reming,” said Juban MDRRMO Lizpeth Nicolas. 

Typhoon Reming (international name: Durian) was a tropical cyclone that devastated the Bicol region back in 2006 which killed six people and injured 26 in Sorsogon. 

“In our coastal areas, our people are telling us that they are experiencing things they haven’t experienced in the past. We’ve experienced a storm surge and the high rise of seas. It’s the first time. This is the strongest so far since we started the DPR programme in 2011,” added Nicolas.

Since 2011, WFP’s DPR programme has been in various stages of intervention in seven targeted communities — the province of Sorsogon, Sorsogon City, and in the municipalities of Casiguran, Irosin, Juban, Prieto Diaz, and Sta. Magdalena — with the help of partners from the academe (Bicol University) and non-government organizations (Green Valley Development Program and Integrated Rural Development Foundation) and through USAID/OFDA funding of PhP33 million.

Sorsogon is a province in the Bicol region which ranks fourth nationwide in terms of typhoon risk, and sixth in terms of volcanic risk. Glenda was the seventh typhoon to enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility this year, and it made its first landfall in Albay province at around 5:00pm with maximum sustained winds of 150 kilometres per hour.

The whole Sorsogon province sprang into action a few days before and after Typhoon Glenda made landfall. Before the typhoon hit, the province organized pre-emptive evacuation at the barangay (village)level, with more than 59,000 families evacuated from Sorsogon City and its 14 municipalities. 

“During our GIS (Geographic Information System) training, the community already learned about the hazards they were exposed to, so we conducted pre-emptive evacuation. When the storm surge occurred, there was no one left in the danger areas,” said Juban MDRRMO Nicolas. 

“As early as the day before the typhoon, our people went around the barangays, especially in the coastal areas. We informed them of the situation and told them it’s time to evacuate,” said Bim Dineros, emergency medical service staff of the City of Sorsogon. By the following day, the City of Sorsogon already evacuated their residents who lived in the danger areas.

After the typhoon struck, the local governments were immediately ready to respond. Emergency responders were deployed to assist injured people and clearing teams were organized to remove fallen debris from the roads.

 Casiguran MDRRMO

“Our barangays are trained to rescue because we just finished our basic life support training,” said Irosin MDRRMO Andres Grajo. 

“All of our equipment came from World Food Programme,” shared Casiguran MDRRMO Mendoza. “We were able to use the clearing tools to immediately clear the roads. The roads were passable the day after. We were also able to use the generator for the office and sleeping mats for the evacuees.

The DPR projects in the different areas of Sorsogon comprise capacity building for municipalities in GIS training, hazard mapping and contingency planning; establishment of emergency response teams with trainings on basic life support, water and search rescue and swift water training; setting up emergency preparedness structures such as early warning systems, disaster operations centre and evacuation centre; climate change adaptation initiatives like a climate change resiliency school, mangrove reforestation, and biochar training; academe and NGO innovations like tunnel-type agriculture, documentation of indigenous knowledge and skills, family and child-centred DPR trainings, and mobile DPR resource centre; and IEC on disaster preparedness.

Building Better Capacity For Preparedness

Aside from disaster response, years of careful groundwork has prepared the communities for the inevitable storm that came to Sorsogon. In Sta. Magdalena, a fifth class municipality in Sorsogon, the information, education, and communication campaign (IEC) proved effective as residents readied themselves before the onslaught of the typhoon. Sta. Magdalena had no casualties from Typhoon Glenda.

 WFP Philippines/Faizza Tanggol

“I can say that the biggest achievement that we have is the increased awareness of the people on disasters, not only for the community but also us in the local government,” said Sta. Magdalena MDRRMO Marlon Futol.

Arvin Fuellas, 33, a resident of Barangay 2 Poblacion, Sta. Magdalena, said that the local government unit gave them early warning. “The people here were informed by the barangay officials of the oncoming typhoon as early as two days before,” he said. “When we learned there was a typhoon, we immediately prepared non-perishable food and water. We also charged our cellphones. People here are alert.”

“Our constituents are ready,” Nicolas said. “We started a capacity needs assessment where we identified all the gaps. We had a community-based disaster management planning that was participatory and inclusive together with persons with disability, where they made their contingency plans—identified vulnerable elements at risk and they planned the resources needed. So on my side, I am confident that the barangay can manage because they know what to do.”

 WFP Philippines/Faizza Tanggol

“Juban is really very thankful for your kind heart. We are lucky enough that WFP and the US helped us to be prepared and so we quickly responded to the situation,” said Nicolas.

“On behalf of Sta. Magdalena, we would like to convey our great appreciation to USAID and of course, to WFP and other agencies. It’s really a great opportunity for Sta. Magdalena as the farthest town of Sorsogon,” said Sta. Magdalena municipal mayor Jocelyn Gallanosa. “We are looking forward for more partnerships for the betterment of everybody, and of course, in the name of being prepared during disasters.”