Uriel C. Quilinguing .
AWARDS are something worth aspiring for, except Kalasag.
Every year, local governments, government and private institutions, volunteer groups, civil society organizations and individuals are accorded with recognitions called Kalasag, a Filipino word which means “shield.”
Kalasag, as it being used by the award-giving body, is an acronym, again in Filipino language, which means KAlamidad at Sakuna LAbanan, SAriling Galing ang kaligtasan.
While the annual search for awardees is spearheaded by the Office of Civil Defense at the regional and national levels, it is the loose multi-government agency National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council that confers the prestigious recognitions which consist of iconic plaques and this year’s P1.6-million cash “prizes.”
Ironically, no local government chief executive of a province, city, municipality or of a barangay— with corresponding disaster risk reduction and management councils—should wish for it.
For who, in their right minds, would pray for a destructive earthquake, for a devastating storm coupled with storm surge that would cause massive flood, or a landslide that would bury an entire village so that their organized local disaster risk reduction and management councils would be tested for contingency plans, early warning systems, preparedness, response, search and rescue, recovery and rehabilitation?
Local governments, whose geographical locations are relatively free from natural hazards, may not have the chance of winning the Kalasag award. Those who are in hazardous areas, as predetermined in the Mines and Geosciences Bureau hazards maps, are likely to be nominated and may receive the recognition several times.
Nominees to the Kalasag awards are expected to show their compliance on disaster pre-action protocols that are focused prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response, and for recovery and rehabilitation. And these are in the criteria in the search for Kalasag award winners.
There are those who may excel in prevention and mitigation as well as in preparedness and response, based on the conduct of disaster drills, but they have nothing to show on the criteria for response as well as on recovery and rehabilitation since they did not experience either a natural or a man-made calamity within the year of evaluation.
Although there are those who would brandish the Kalasag plaque, crow on how it was won and publicize the awards, yet these celebratory actions should mean that the local governments did managed to rise from destruction, that collectively residents remain optimistic after tragedy, and that they have become resilient due to the disasters.
The Kalasag awards has become the highlight of the National Disaster Resilience Month observance every July for the past two decades. Let it be then.
Perhaps, the OCD and the NDRRMC would consider giving recognitions, too, on local governments that would excel in other pre-action protocols, not necessarily in all criteria for judging. And, instead of sole cash awards, or rewards, these should be complimented or supplemented with disaster-preparedness, response, search and rescue equipment.
Finally, award recipients must always be mindful of the loss of lives and properties, the trauma on disaster survivors, the huge cost of destruction on vital installations and structures, and the dreams and aspirations of the young that may have vanished because of tragedies.
(Uriel C. Quilinguing is a past president of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club and former editor in chief of this paper. Currently, he is engaged in campus journalism trainings.)