PhillipinesDrawing from the recent Indian experience of procuring an emergency license for radio in Cuddalore during the Chennai floods, the team caught up with Joselito Casalmir Polestico from Philippines, one of the participants in the workshop, to understand the country’s experience with disaster and community radio. Polestico, an Agrarian Reform Programme Officer from the Department of Agriculture Reform, Philippines, spoke about the country’s recent experience with natural disasters and how community radio has enabled the process of risk reduction.

Explaining how about 14 to 15 typhoons ravage the country every year, Polestico stressed the need to prepare people living in the coastal areas for such disasters. “In 2012, when the Bopha typhoon hit Philippines, three municipalities of Mindanao were damaged. Lives, property and agriculture were affected, normalcy was thrown out of gear. The barangay, the local area administration set up evacuation centres to train local leaders in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management. This is being done as continuous education for people, and the role of community media becomes important here,” he explained.

Philippines is home to Radyo Natin network, with each station being named after the municipality where it operates. These radyos serve as media through which people are taught to prepare adequately for natural disasters. During the typhoons, they were taught how to make announcements on evacuation timings and other on-ground emergency operations.

Timely stakeholder collaboration and redressal of the situation at hand remains paramount when disaster strikes. Polestico explained that the Natural Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Department of Social Welfare and Development render assistance through government training, even as he elaborated on how community radios have collaborated with other stakeholders besides the government. Community radios enable communication in local languages that are often not catered to by the mainstream media.

“The government finds use in working with these stations for channelling information down to the barangays, in the local language. The bisayan language is one of the main languages that we use, but there are many that do not understand this language. Community radios help in communicating and reaching out to them in their native tongues and allow us to quickly work together.  Such measures have helped us reduce loss of lives in the last few years,” the agriculture official concluded.

Preeti Raghunath
University of Hyderabad