x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UAE Filipinos to learn how to deal with natural disasters

A disaster preparedness and management programme will be launched next year for Filipinos in the UAE, the Philippines ambassador said

Filipinos seek refuge inside a Catholic church converted into an evacuation centre after typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city. Romeo Ranoco / Reuters
Filipinos seek refuge inside a Catholic church converted into an evacuation centre after typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city. Romeo Ranoco / Reuters

ABU DHABI // Filipinos in the UAE will be taught how to prepare for, respond to and minimise the impact of natural disasters such as the typhoon.

The Philippine ambassador, Grace Princesa, who took up her post in October 2009, hopes to launch the disaster management programme by next year.

“We’ve successfully launched our financial literacy programme, but I hope that Filipinos will be equipped with the knowledge of disaster preparedness and management.”

The skills and knowledge they acquire from the programme, she said, could be passed on to their families back home.

“I don’t want us having the record of having the strongest typhoon ever recorded in the world,” Ms Princesa said. “But this brings the need for disaster education, preparedness and disaster mitigation.”

Meanwhile Filipino expatriates remain desperately worried about their families on the islands, as communication remains difficult with many areas still cut off.

Doreen Sarmen, 41, a secretary in Abu Dhabi, is concerned about the safety of her two children, Donald Franz, 19, and Sapphire Kein, 18, in the Caibaan area of Tacloban City on Leyte province, the area most devastated by the typhoon.

“I haven’t heard anything from them since Friday,” she said. “I’ve not been able to sleep every day and cry every now and then.”

Mrs Sarmen’s sister and her family had to move from their home in San Jose, a coastal village, to seek refuge in Mrs Sarmen’s home in Caibaan.

“I feel so helpless,” she said. “I’m here while so many Filipinos from our province are suffering.”

Eladio Cidro Jr, 40, a civil engineer in Abu Dhabi, expressed concern for relatives in Guiuan, eastern Samar, the province first in line when the typhoon made landfall.

“We don’t have any means to contact them,” he said. “But our relatives from Manila will be visiting them to provide them with food, water and other supplies.”

“We would like to extend our sincerest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones,” said Ms Princesa. “We would like to ensure that with the bayanihan spirit, funds are being raised for the typhoon victims.”

Bayanihan is a term derived from two Filipino words: bayani, meaning hero, and bayan, meaning nation. In a wider sense, it refers to helping people in times of need and the spirit of leadership, volunteering and a sense of unity.

“I’ve been training the community leaders, without the prodding from the embassy, to raise funds on their own,” Ms Princesa said. “The Bayanihan council here already has a fund for calamities, and they expect to raise additional funds in aid of the typhoon victims.”

rruiz@thenational.ae