Mr. Arquillano explained the following: "The previous day, when the severity of the typhoon was already clear, we decided to evacuate all 1,000 people. Because we had done so much disaster risk work, everyone understood the need to move to safer areas." In this area, everyone still calls him Mayor Al.
"Good grief! It was a wise decision. It is fair to say that this saved everyone’s life. There is not one property standing on the island. Everything was destroyed.
"This shows that preparation pays off. Over the years, we have been working on early warnings and evacuations. The awareness level of the community was so high that it went well. I have worked hard to implement the international disaster risk reduction agreement, the Hyogo Framework for Action.”
Tulang Diyot is about 1.5 kilometers long, and its widest point is about 500 meters. It is located about 1 kilometer away from the island of San Francisco, as part of the Camotes Islands, which lie between the larger islands of Leyte to the east and Cebu to the west.
Mr. Arquillano, who has actively participated in the "Making Cities Resilient" campaign of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, said that it is now important that the work focus on reducing the risk of future disasters.
"We are already talking to the inhabitants of the island about the need to move to the main island (San Francisco). They should not be returning to the small island. While most people understand the risk because Tulang Diyot is located at a low altitude, it is very difficult for them not to return because this is their home.
"It will be a challenge to try to relocate a safer place where they can rebuild their livelihoods as fishermen or farmers.”
Under the leadership of Mr. Arquillano, San Francisco won the Sasakawa Award of the United Nations Disaster Risk Reduction in 2011, in recognition of his community work based on what is known as the 'Purok system', an indigenous method of self-organization within the different villages.
As part of the 'Capital Build Up' programme, the community deposited pre-determined amounts deposited to establish an initial capital fund to be used in post-disaster relief work.
Date: November 15, 2013
Source: United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (UNISDR AP)