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Changing Perspectives, Changing Priorities

At 49, Mayor Rafael Asebias is a veteran and newbie in public service.

As a former member of the judiciary, he has served in Municipal Circuit Trial Courts (MCTC) for many years, making him well-rounded in civil and penal laws. As a lawyer, he has defended many clients to attain and serve justice to their causes. But after his landslide victory last May, he has embraced another yet challenge in his public service career; this time, as the new local chief executive of Quinapondan.

While LGUs spend their first 100 days on orientations and reorganizations, the newly-elected chief executive has delved into an equally important issue in the municipality: disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM). “I am a new mayor, but my priority is to empower the people of Quinapondan in DRR,” he says with finality and certitude.

Prior to his term, there are myriad of NGOs that provided support in the LGU, ranging from equipment distribution, planning workshops, risk assessments up to simulation drills. These NGOs have more resources and have wider reach than local NGOs such as the Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP); but Mayor Raffy has taken the risk of collaborating with CDP in crafting and testing the municipal contingency and DRRM plans through the Oxfam-supported project, “building inclusive resilient communities: better shared local risk governance.”

“It was my first time to attend the workshops but I commit my whole mind, heart and soul in all our endeavors,” he humbly admits during the LDRRMP and Contingency Planning Workshops held in August 2016. Indeed, this humility is manifested in his simple actions during the workshops: he was punctual, wore his seminar badge during the 3-day workshop, danced and pranced in icebreakers, and of course, diligently contributed to the outputs.

After the CP and LDRRMP workshops, he has taken prompt actions to reorganize the MDRRM council. He has immediately called a meeting to existing and potential members and organized the new MDRRMC, applying the clusters, implementing agreements after the workshops, and executing a document to affirm the reorganization. He has also ordered the provision of desktop computers to the MDRRM office and assignment of staff to assist the day-to-day operations of the office.

Despite the hectic schedule of preparing for the town fiesta, Mayor Raffy has ensured that the plans especially the early warning system would be tested and improved. He, along with Vice Mayor Leo Jasper Candido and several members of Sangguniang Bayan (SB) have led the MDRRMC’s conduct of the municipal tabletop simulation exercise and actual drill in August 26 and September 2 of last year, respectively.

As one of the highlight activity of the project, it was baptism by fire to Mayor Raffy as he had to deal with the surrounding issues of leadership, evacuation center management, early warning, communication protocol, and communication with the barangays. His collaboration and coordination with the MDRRMC has led to the success of the two drills. “Marami kaming natutunan, lalo ako, malaki ang magiging papel ko bilang MDRRMC chairman, malaki iyong obligasyong nakaatang sa aking balikat. Kaya sisikapin ko po na ako rin ay makahabol, mapunan ko kung ano pa ang pagkukulang ko at sana huwag magsawa ang CDP at Oxfam sa pagtulong sa LGU ng Quinapondan (We have learned a lot, especially me, because I am carrying with me a huge responsibility as the MDRRMC chairman. I will try my best to catch up and fill in whatever gaps we have),” an optimistic Mayor Raffy says.

The newbie mayor has vowed to continue the gains of the project by doubling his efforts. “We will increase the fund by 7%. The purpose is that we will continue to capacitate the barangays, increase our trainers, and provide some equipment,” he assures.

As a survivor of the super typhoon himself, he means business in ensuring that his constituents are prepared and safe. “We will not be satisfied. We’ll go down to every household and see that every household will be capacitated,” he maintains.

Asked why he was very committed and passionate to the BIRC project activities, Mayor Raffy profoundly shares that he chose to prioritize DRR because of its relation to development. “Tinutukan ko ang DRR kasi my personal view is, disaster management and preparedness is closely connected to economic development. Para sa akin, DRR and local economy preparation ay magkaugnay (I particularly prioritized DRR because of my personal view that disaster management and preparedness is closely connected to economic development),” he concludes.

His proactive stance towards DRR in his first 100 days is an indication of his firm commitment towards achieving a more resilient community, a vision he shares not only with CDP and Oxfam, but more importantly, to his people who continue to hurdle strong typhoons, effects of a changing climate, along with other developmental issues and concerns that hound a fifth-class municipality like Quinapondan.

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