Retail giant SM Supermalls is leading efforts to empower People with Disabilities (PWDs) and Senior Citizens by giving them a voice in discussions involving disaster response and management.
More than one thousand PWDs and senior citizens trooped to the SMX Convention Center at the Mall of Asia last Wednesday, July 20, to be part of the second Disaster Resilience Conference for PWDs and Senior Citizens organized by the SM Cares Program on Persons with Disabilities, in partnership with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the SMX Convention Center. The conference was also held in support of United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR).
The event was the second time SM sponsored the Disaster Resiliency Conference for PWDs and senior citizens in order to provide adequate information about the reality of potential earthquake/disaster scenario happening in Metro Manila and make them better prepared and resilient during times of emergencies.
Disaster experts had revealed that should a major earthquake occur in Metro Manila, 35,000 will die instantly and 175,000 will be injured. Majority of the casualties will be PWDs and the elderly because of their physical condition.
Annie Garcia, President of SM Supermalls, in her speech during the conference, said since it has been recognized that PWDs and senior citizens are the most disadvantage due to their limitations on mobility and awareness so that it is necessary that they are taught all the information on how to survive calamity.
“PWDs and our Senior Citizens have proven time and again their own courage in overcoming the odds. Their own bravery in facing life’s hurdles. They are our paragons of perseverance and willpower. In today’s conference, we want to nurture that strength and determination by equipping them with the right information and know-how to enable them to face the natural disasters that hit our country year after year,” she said.
During the conference, more than 1,000 PWDs and senior citizens were taught basic survival tips during times of emergencies. Their caregivers are also given some pointers on how to assist their wards during disasters.
Forum speakers, Dr. Clarita Carlos, University of the Philippines Professor and Disaster Management expert, Emerson Carlos, Chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority and Ted Esguerra, Operational Medicine Instructor of the International Disaster Response Network, discussed how people can prepare themselves in the face of possible earthquake including standard protocols for the community. UN Country Representative to the Philippines, Mr. Ola Almgren, was present during the event, to deliver his message of support for the initiative.”
During the conference, PWDs and the elderly pushed for a national ID system to enable the government determine their exact numbers for more appropriate and sufficient delivery of services, including better disaster response and management.
Clarita Carlos said there is a need to finally put up a National ID system so that all Filipinos will be properly documented. “In a national ID system, once a baby is born, he is given a number and all his or her details in placed in that single number. The government will be able to know immediately if he is eligible to vote, what his status and once he or she becomes a senior citizen,” Carlos said.
She said it is about time the government seriously considers and implements the system because of the conflicting numbers of PWDs and senior citizens available in many government organizations vis-à-vis international groups and non-government organizations.
“Take for example the number of senior citizens based on record provided by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). The PSA estimates the number of elderly to 5.4 million but the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) puts the number of 7 million. We at the UP puts the number at 5.6 million. There is a big difference,” Carlos stated.
Noli Agcaoili, of PWD group AKAP Pinoy, stated the same is true with the numbers being given to PWDs. He said the PSA places the number of PWDs in the country to 1.5 million but the United Nations estimates it to be between 12 to 15 percent of the population or 12 to 15 million Filipinos.
Carlos said knowing the exact number of people with PWDs and senior citizens is crucial to the delivery of services to these particular sectors. “We need to provide a unified and exact number because government response will depend on how many are involved. It cannot be more or inadequate especially in times of disasters and emergencies,” Carlos stated.