Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. has ordered the formation of permanent disaster preparedness teams in the DPWH's 174 district engineering offices to attend to emergency situations all over the country, which is known as one of the world's most calamity-prone areas.
"We must all be prepared to attend to any calamity or disaster 24/7. Emergency situations can strike anytime and we must be ready to mobilize our men and equipment when they do," Ebdane said.
Instead of having ad-hoc and temporary disaster preparedness teams, Ebdane said the Department of Public Works and Highways should have ``institutionalized teams and plans'' to respond to calamities and disasters.
The agency's disaster management reference book – the DPWH Road in the Philippines Handbook 2009 – says that being in the Pacific ring of fire and Pacific typhoon belt, the country experiences a variety of natural disasters due to its geographical location and physical environment.
"The Philippines is considered as one of the most disaster-prone countries because it is located not only along the fire ring but also along the Pacific typhoon belt," the DPWH handbook said.
According to the Philippine National Red Cross, 31,835 Filipinos were killed and 94,369,462 others were affected by natural disasters and calamities in a span of 20 years.
Furthermore, 5,809,986 Filipinos were killed or injured as a result of disasters or man-made calamities over a ten-year period (1992-2001).
Every year, about 20 tropical cyclones enter the archipelago and leave damaging effects such as floods and landslides. On the other hand, of the 200 Philippine volcanoes located along the seismic belt, 22 are classified as active.
The DPWH disaster preparedness teams are composed of men with expertise in transportation and logistics; monitoring and evaluation; rescue and assistance; communication and public information; and repair and restoration of damaged roads and bridges.
The team is expected to deploy service vehicles and dump trucks and identify vehicular alternate routes in calamity areas.
"All sorts of equipment like bulldozer, grader, and loader are readily available in every district in case of any disaster operations. We also have a stock of gravel and sand for emergency patching of roads," DPWH-Region 8 Director Angelito Twaño said of the disaster teams that have been put in place on orders of Ebdane.