As Ramon Isberto of the telecommunications company Smart put it, "we are going to be called upon to help anyway, so it is better to be involved beforehand. Communication is essential in an emergency and we have a number one responsibility to keep the network going". He was speaking to a five-person delegation from Bangladesh representing Shongjog, a platform of organisations concerned with communicating and engaging with affected communities as part of disaster risk reduction, emergency preparedness and response.
Private sector involvement in such activities in the Philippines is considerable. The archipelago consists of more than seven thousand islands and has a history of earthquakes, major volcanic eruptions and is hit by at least a score of typhoons every year. At the heart of the private sector effort is the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF). From a control room with multiple screens in the Shell building its small team coordinates seven clusters for business activities, such as energy and power, finance and insurance, logistics and communications, as part of the world's first private sector-led national emergency operations centre. It works closely with the Government and the United Nations. Such is the earthquake risk for the Philippines' capital Manila that the centre operates from a former US military airbase outside of the capital.
The Executive Director of PDRF, Marilou Erni, says there is a real business case for companies to get involved so they are in a better position to look after their employees and be ready to take part in the recovery. PDRF and Smart, along with other private sector entities and innovative start-ups are members of the Community of Practice for Community Engagement currently chaired by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Manila.
In Bangladesh Shongjog is primarily made up of humanitarian agencies and is chaired by Rahima Akter, Deputy Director of the Government’s Department for Disaster Management. At the conclusion of her visit Ms Rahima said the visit would help the group a lot, particularly with regard to the idea of more directly involving the private sector. "When we get back," she said, "we will try to get this into Shongjog".
Hear the podcast on the visit
When faced with some new options - will this work at home?
The Shongjog platform to improve communicating with affected communities is part of a CDAC Network project funded by UK Aid under its Disasters and Emergency Preparedness Programme. This programme works to develop effective response where it is needed most, and aims at a major improvement in the way countries cope with populations caught up in a disaster or conflict. This ground breaking programme, one of the largest investments of its kind, is managed collaboratively by the CDAC and Start Networks. Between them they leverage the expertise of more than 50 member organisations.