National

Tsunami-hit city shares recovery tips with typhoon-hit Philippines

Kyodo

A city in Miyagi Prefecture that was devastated by the March 2011 disasters is sharing its recovery lessons with the central Philippines, which is trying to recover from the damage Typhoon Haiyan inflicted in November.

Shuya Takahashi of Higashi-Matsushima’s Reconstruction Policy Division said the city is trying to become place that can “withstand disasters and is safe, where people can feel secure and live with smiles on their faces, and nurture industries and create jobs.”

Takahashi was speaking Friday at a seminar organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Philippine Public Works and Highways Department. The two bodies are sharing experiences and strategies on disaster management and reconstruction.

Takahashi disclosed that just a month after the natural disasters, Higashi-Matsushima was able to come up with guidelines for recovery and reconstruction. This was followed by a 10-year reconstruction and development plan through 2020.

Takahashi said that it was very important to get the local community involved in developing the plan and other prudent measures, like setting up evacuation areas and building tsunami defenses.

“We adopted a bottom-up approach to our consensus planning,” he said.

Koichi Hashimoto of the Higashi-Matsushima Construction Industry Association and Chamber of Commerce spoke of the value of recycling debris from disasters, citing the city’s 97 percent recycling rate.

Not only can natural materials be used for reconstruction, they can also help affected people generate income, thus rekindling the local economy, he said.

“We have observed the Tacloban city dump site and saw there were spontaneous combustions. I think we can apply the micro-decomposition method there,” Hashimoto said, referring to the worst-hit city on Leyte Island.

Danny Antonio of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery, which President Benigno Aquino III set up after Haiyan hit, told reporters after the seminar that while no final long-term rehabilitation plan is available yet, what is important is that short-term rehabilitation in most of the affected areas has begun.

“We have to learn from all the stories taken up today. The Japanese model on how to do it after the event has happened looked good,” Antonio said.

Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez said Japan can help the most with technical aspects on specific issues, such as the profitability of recycling debris, assessing the sea for proper zoning, and whether to replace utility poles with an underground system or other technologies.

JICA Vice President Toshiyuki Kuroyanagi said Japan wants to share its experience and expertise to return the favor for the Philippines’ support after March 2011.