The Philippines isn’t new to natural disasters or calamities.
Compared to its other Southeast Asian neighbors, our country experiences a wider range of disasters. From floods to landslides, and typhoons to earthquakes – the most recent of which just happened in Leyte with a magnitude of 6.5 – the Philippines continues to endure and survive. Though the government does its best in preparing for and anticipating these times of emergency through awareness efforts and disaster response drills, self-mitigation is still an area that we can further improve on.
Surendra Menon, CEO of the country’s premier bancassurance company, BPI-Philam, learned from the resiliency of Filipinos and their experience in times of crisis, believing this has given them a good start in disaster preparedness.
“Most Asian countries don’t have typhoons; most of them are prepared for floods, fires, and some earthquakes. But here you have the full range – you have typhoons, you have earthquakes, tsunamis, even volcanoes. Most things about disaster preparedness Filipinos have learned because you’ve gone through it all,” he said
Despite this vast experience of the nation, Menon encourages practicing resourcefulness by taking notes from disaster responsiveness of other countries in the region. Having worked and lived in Indonesia, he recalls the massive 1989 earthquake that hit its West Papua region, where countless people died and survivors ran out of supplies in a few months’ time, remaining displaced years after the incident.
He believes Indonesians and Filipinos are somewhat similar given their experiences, but Filipinos can up their preparedness by starting with themselves.
“Disaster has a long-term impact, but only short-term assistance will come so it’s up to you to bridge the gap between short-term assistance and long-term necessities,” he stressed.
Menon, who served as a Lieutenant Captain for Singapore’s Civil Defense Forces, shared some practical tips that could help anybody self-mitigate in times of disaster.
“On a physical basis, make sure you have two weeks’ worth of water in your house. The first and foremost necessity for survival is water,” Menon said. “You will need food – dry food like biscuits that can last for two weeks as well for you and your family should be enough to go around when a disaster strikes and until help comes.”
Apart from physical needs, he also reminded Filipinos to have available cash at hand for emergency purchases and backup funds in the bank. “Maintaining an insurance plan would help too,” he said. “Prioritize protection from accidents first, then your health and life [insurance].”
Prioritize today, protect the future
Starting and maintaining financial contingency plans may not seem to be a priority for the average Filipino worker, but Menon believes foresight is a good thing to have, not just for ourselves but for those who matter to us most.
“The order of priority for your funds should be ‘today’ first and then ‘immediate emergency,'” he said.
“The next priority after that should be protecting your future income, preferably through a life insurance plan, so your family won’t have to worry about resources should something happen to you.”
Confident of the Filipinos’ indomitable spirit – the driving force against some of the worst natural and man-made disasters that hit the region – Menon is convinced the Philippines can only get more resilient through learnings from past calamities and ensure enough preparation for life’s uncertainties.