By Francis Wakefield
The country is hosting the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) 3rd Regional Collaboration Drill, maintaining a “One ASEAN, One Response,” where member-nations respond to disasters as one body in and outside the region, the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) said Tuesday.
In a statement, the OCD said this vow will be put to the test from December 3 to 5 this year as the country hosts the third Regional Collaboration Drill (RCD).
In November last year, the ASEAN Declaration on Disaster Health Management was signed during the 31st ASEAN Summit in the Philippines that highlights the importance of responding as one region.
To put this into motion, the Project on Strengthening the ASEAN Regional Capacity on Disaster Health Management (ARCH) was initiated by the National Institute for Emergency Medicine-Thailand, in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The project aims to strengthen the overall regional response during disasters, particularly on the coordination among emergency medical teams (EMTs) and the recipient, along with team management relevant to the response.
The project includes the conduct of three RCDs. The first drill was hosted by Thailand in June 2017, and the second by Vietnam in March 2018.
The third drill in the Philippines is being attended by its Department of Health executive committee and members of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, and EMTs composed of five members each from the ASEAN member-states.
“The Philippine hosting of the RCD is included in the country’s commitment as an ASEAN member and it is also in line with the Philippine health agenda called FOURmula One Plus, where responsiveness is a priority not only during normal times but especially in environmental health threats, hazards and disasters,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque declared.
The Philippine hosting of the drill is in line with the preparation of the country to respond to a possible 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Metro Manila. At the end, it will benefit the country to enhance the interagency collaboration and coordination both at the national and international response operation activities.
The hosting is also part of the observance of December 6 as the “National Health Emergency Preparedness Day” as per Proclamation No. 705, series of 1995.
The RCD is a combination of a two-day tabletop exercise held on December 3 and 5 and a one-day field exercise on December 4 at the Philippine Army Grandstand in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.
The RCD intends to examine the current draft regional collaboration mechanism on disaster health management and tools which were developed through the ARCH project. The exercise also aims to further refine EMT operations at all levels in terms of command and control, coordination and collaboration, and communication.
“From a country with several experiences on disaster, ranking third among the 171 countries in terms of disaster risk, the Philippines recognizes that coordination saves lives and, therefore, we need to improve our coordination between countries, among local responders, and that of civil and military sectors,” Duque concluded.