More than 175 representatives of Philippine public and private entities, as well as partners from select U.S. government agencies, are meeting this week to work together and strengthen the country’s overall pandemic preparedness, in a U.S.-funded event that promotes a “whole-of-society” approach to mitigating pandemic events and natural disasters.
Infectious diseases with pandemic potential, including human and animal influenza, present a growing threat to public health and socioeconomic security of a growing population and an integrated, globalized economy. Countries must consider ways to mitigate the impact and limit the damage before a pandemic event occurs with even more serious impacts.
In an effort to enhance effective regional response to public health threats, pandemic preparedness plans developed over the past year will be tested during the Multi-Sectoral Pandemic Disaster Exercise, which began today at 9 a.m. at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City.
Participants in the exercise will examine three critical elements of good governance during large-scale disasters: emergency management protocols at all levels of government; essential services that support societal infrastructures; and risk communications. Key national, regional and local government and private sector players will prioritize activities that save lives and support societal infrastructure in the event of a pandemic. In addition, an innovative pilot project was implemented for the municipality of Santa Rosa City.
Led by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) through its secretariat the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), in collaboration with essential service sectors and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the event is supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the United States Pacific Command, United States Marine Forces Pacific, the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine, and U.S.-based non-governmental organization International Medical Corps.
In his welcome remarks at the start of the four-day event, USAID Deputy Mission Director Reed Aeschliman noted that the Pandemic Disaster Exercise aimed at increasing the national, regional and local capacity to prepare, respond to and effectively mitigate the profound multisectoral impacts of a severe pandemic.”
With a unique integrated approach that emphasizes public-private partnership, the interactive activity is expected to strengthen relationships, enhance the exchange of information, and improve planning among participants who rarely have the opportunity to work together unless a disaster occurs. This exercise provides an interactive, cooperative forum to evaluate the practical application of strategic plans, and multi-sectoral, whole-of-society partnerships which build resiliency in effective continuity of essential public services and the security of critical infrastructure across all levels of Philippine society during regional pandemic events or other major disasters.
“Impacts and losses can be substantially reduced if all sectors of society are well prepared and ready to act in the event of a disaster. The added benefit of this exercise is that the approach can be applied to disasters brought about by floods, typhoons or even environmental contamination due to technological hazards. Any of these can threaten our nation at any time,” said NDRRMC Undersecretary Benito Ramos.
The Pandemic Disaster Exercise is funded by the U.S. Government, through the United States Agency for International Development through the PREPARE (Pandemic Preparedness) Project. As with other bilateral exchanges, this event reinforces the mutual commitment shared between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States to enhancing the effective response capabilities to regional threats.
Media are invited to attend a press conference at the closing of the exercise at 11 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 14, at the Dusit Thani Hotel, when senior officials will share findings and outcomes of the exercise.