Paris-Based AXA Global & CARE Int’l Help CamSur Municipality Practice Disaster Risk Reduction

Meeting the Locals. Amandine Soulier (8th from left), AXA Global Corporate Responsibility Philanthropy Manager, and Vianney Sauvage, CARE France’s Corporate Partnership Manager (5th from left), led the environmental discussion with local leaders in Cagsao, Calabanga, Camarines Sur recently. Also in the photo are Celso Dulce (6th from left), CARE Philippines representative; Meltem Şimşek (third from right), Hüseyin Ali Ŏzeren and Urman Ünal from AXA Turkey, and AXA Philippines representative Angel Antiga who led the delegates to the Calabanga projects tour.

The municipality of Calabanga in Camarines Sur is now more prepared to cope with natural disasters, thanks to the efforts of an international NGO and its corporate partners. In particular, the barangay of Cagsao was selected for DRR (disaster risk reduction) efforts, due to it being at high risk of floods, storm surge and tsunami.

Paris-based AXA Global and the international Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) of Switzerland France are partners in providing a DRR program to Calabanga municipality. The DRR program is implemented under the European Union-funded ASCEND (Advance Safer Communities and Environments against Disasters) project and implemented by CARE Philippines and its partners.

Representatives from AXA Global and AXA Turkey recently visited barangay Cagsao in the municipality of Calabanga to observe the latest developments in the DRR efforts. Their visit was assisted by AXA Philippines.

“The partnership of AXA Global and CARE are very welcome and very timely, considering that many parts of the country are vulnerable to the effects of frequent typhoons throughout the year. We at AXA Philippines support these efforts as part of the AXA Group,” said AXA Philippines President & CEO, Rien Hermans.

Caring for Calabanga

Through the years, Calabanga, one of the biggest municipalities in Camarines Sur in terms of population (73,333 ) and land area (16,384 hectares) has been terribly hit by calamities.

Located at the coast of San Miguel Bay and surrounded by Bicol and Tigman Rivers, the town is highly vulnerable to flooding. In 2004 Typhoon Unding, Violeta, Winnie and Yoyong wrought havoc to life and property; and Barangay Sibobo, between San Miguel Bay and sloping hills made even more treacherous by quarrying, became the hardest hit.

“We thought we shouldn’t stop in giving away relief goods. More than that, we should follow it up with disaster preparedness and disaster mitigation projects,” said Celso Dulce, CARE Philippines representative.

Thus, since 2007, CARE with the help of AXA Global, has not only been distributing food packs in times of calamity in Calabanga, it has also conducted numerous trainings and workshops such as Community-based Disaster Risk Management; Disaster Preparedness and Contingency Planning.

These trainings help prepare the community for future emergencies. CARE has also adopted simple action plans that have benefited the communities even more. In the Calabanga and Cagsao DRR efforts, for example, community members engage in tree planting projects, river clean-ups and gabion construction in San Miguel Bay coast--to protect the coast from storm surge and erosion.

Beyond DRR workshops

More than actual DRR training for designated officers in the community, there are other things the community needs to help them cope with and recover from disaster. CARE’s partnerships with AXA Global are also helpful in this regard.

Even as community members participate in DRR seminars and conduct risk reduction efforts, the community also receives food packs and livelihood training through the help of CARE and AXA Global.

Some examples of these food security and livelihood projects include the donation of farm animals like carabaos, farm trucks and also free seminars on tilapia-raising. According to Dulce, poverty limits the people’s capacity to cope with disasters so there’s a need to strengthen their livelihood.

Education: Starting DRR early

AXA Global and CARE are also helping in efforts to educate children in high-risk communities about DRR.

And so, aside from the 3Rs (Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic) -- the foundations of a basic skills-oriented education--the students in Calabanga, Camarines Sur are learning another big R: Risk reduction.

In one session, Grade One teacher Norma Guiriba of Cagsao Elementary School flashed illustrations of children in various situations that show good and bad practice in disaster prevention. The children were asked to identify each situation and flash a cardboard happy or sad face to indicate their approval and disapproval. They got it all right.

The lesson plan consists of identification of hazards; routes of action before, during or after the calamity; including preventive measures to mitigate the unfavorable effects of climate change. This knowledge could mean life and death to people in Cagsao.

“We laud the project because the children learn a lot from it at an early age,” says Antonio Endani Jr., principal of Cagsao Elementary School. “More importantly, they know that they can do something about it,” said AXA Philippines President & CEO, Rien Hermans.

CSR as a way of life

According to Amandine Soulier, AXA Global’s Corporate Responsibility Philantrophy Manager, who was part of the delegation to Calabanga, AXA practices social responsibility as part of its corporate culture.

“Corporate social responsibility is not an external department; it’s a way of thinking differently,” said Soulier,. “We like to anchor people to be more responsible.”

Soulier added that helping poor communities is a must in reducing the risk posed by natural disasters due to climate change. “Climate change has a huge impact on poor people. The fight against climate change is a fight against poverty,” she said.

Dulce looks forward to doing Disaster Risk Reduction Management in a larger scale soon with AXA Global.

“Our projects in Calabanga have become a model framework for other similar endeavors, in fact, its mayor (Calabanga Mayor Evelyn Yu) presented her municipality’s best DRR practice in Phuket, Thailand recently,” Dulce revealed.

This came on the heels of a 2009 Gawad Kalasag (KAlamidad at Sakuna LAbanan SAriling Galing ang Kaligtasan) award for Calabanga given by National Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Council (NDRRMC).

Dulce said that CARE, with the help of AXA Global, will undertake DRR trainings nationwide in cooperation with Department of Interior and Local Government as well as the Department of Education.

AXA is one of the world’s leaders in financial protection and wealth management. Originating from France, it serves a global clientele of 95 million customers in 61 countries, with 4.3 billion Euros in adjusted earnings as of 2010.

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