By Sharah Ibrahim

The Philippines is a country prone to frequent natural calamities. In 2022, the country topped the World Risk Report with a 46.82 world risk index.  On average, 20 storms and typhoons enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility each year, with about 8 or 9 of them crossing the Philippines.  Moreover, according to PHIVOLCS, earthquakes are a common occurrence, with an average of 100-150 earthquakes hitting the country every year.  The country is also home to 24 active volcanoes, with Mayon, Taal, and Pinatubo being some of the most notorious.  100 to 150 earthquakes. These figures are not mere statistics; they are a reality that millions of Filipinos live with every day.

Destructive natural disasters like Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, the Bohol Earthquake in the same year, and Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in 2013 struck the Philippines. Numerous people were impacted by these events and hundreds of lives were lost. Despite previous warnings, a constant feature in these disasters was the seeming lack of knowledge and preparation.  Ondoy's sudden and heavy rains caused unanticipated flooding that trapped several people inside their homes.

Similarly, the Bohol Earthquake caught the locals off guard due to inadequate infrastructure to handle the quake's magnitude. On the other hand, due to misinterpreted storm surge warnings, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful tropical cyclones in recorded history, caused confusion and led many people to minimize the threat it posed.

These tragedies have led to a reevaluation of disaster preparedness and response in the Philippines. The lessons learned emphasize the importance of understanding warnings, taking timely precautions, and having coordinated efforts between government agencies and communities.


HANDA Pilipinas: A Beacon of Hope

Natural calamities cannot be avoided, but their impact can be mitigated with awareness and preparedness.  In line with this, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has relaunched its initiative called "HANDA Pilipinas," showcasing local inventions that address disasters. The exhibited technologies include flood barriers, early warning systems, earthquake-resistant structures, hazard maps available on mobile apps, unsinkable boats, mobile homes, and biomedical devices developed by local scientists who have come up with solutions for disasters and calamities. This expo serves as a platform to help these local scientists market their inventions and innovations, making their valuable contributions more accessible to those in need.

The exhibit makes its comeback after a hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to DOST Secretary Renato Solidum, Jr..  HANDA Pilipinas aims to prepare communities and barangays through science and technology.  It's a showcase to engage local government units, private businesses, and other agencies, emphasizing Filipino-made technologies to minimize the effects of calamities in the country.

The importance of Handa Pilipinas extends beyond technological innovation.  It's about fostering a culture of preparedness, where every Filipino understands the risks and takes proactive steps to mitigate them. It's about building resilient communities that can withstand the forces of nature and bounce back stronger.  It's about turning complacency into action, ignorance into awareness, and vulnerability into strength.

HANDA Pilipinas is more than an initiative; it's a movement towards a stronger, more resilient Philippines.  The first leg of the Handa Pilipinas exhibition will be held at the World Trade Center in Pasay City, with a focus on urban risk.  Separate events will be mounted in Cagayan de Oro and Tacloban City, the latter in time for the anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

It's about embracing innovation, fostering education, and building a nation that stands strong in the face of adversity.  Join Handa Pilipinas.  Be part of the solution.  Because when it comes to natural calamities, it's not a question of if, but when.  Let us embrace the spirit of HANDA Pilipinas and work together to build a resilient nation, prepared to face any challenge.