November 8, 2016
As part of raising awareness on disaster risk reduction management (DRRM) in the Philippines, the Municipality of Kalibo is embracing the Japanese technique "uitemate" (meaning floating and waiting for rescue) to prevent drowning during massive typhoons and rainfalls.
The Society of Water Rescue and Survival Research, a non-profit academic organization based in Nagaoka University of Technology in Japan, and Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer (JOCV) Tatsuya Hada in collaboration with the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) in Kalibo, Aklan are introducing "uitemate" water rescue and survival technique via workshop to nearly 100 participants from Aklan.
Participants to the workshop include the Kalibo Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO), Office of Civil Defense (OCD), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Department of Education (DepEd), Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection, and local government officials and residents in Aklan.
"The workshop is part of Aklan's community-based DRRM efforts and commemoration of Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda on November 8, 2013. So we can develop instructors who can transfer knowledge on "uitemate" to schools and communities, not just in Kalibo but to help the province of Aklan" said Kalibo Mayor William Lachica.
The Province of Aklan is vulnerable to typhoons and flooding. During Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, hundreds of people were affected and injured, and the focus of international support to Tacloban over other areas motivated Aklanons to institutionalize self-help and community help in DRR.
In 2015, Kalibo's community-based DRRM was awarded the best DRRM Office in Region 6, but they acknowledged that challenges remain.
"The Philippines continue to face water-related disasters, and in Aklan, many people cannot swim and swimming lessons are not yet part of the school curriculum," said Kalibo DRRM Officer Terrence June Toriano. Prior to Typhoon Yolanda, the massive flooding in Aklan brought by Typhoon Frank in 2008 led to casualties as residents living in mountain areas were not able to evacuate because they cannot cross the river to reach the towns.
With this, Japanese volunteer Hada who was dispatched by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Kalibo, Aklan initiated the "uitemate" workshop.
In Japan, "uitemate" proved to be an effective disaster survival concept. In 2011, during the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, several residents of coastal town Higashimatsushita, Miyagi Prefecture survived using "uitemate."
The Society of Water Rescue and Survival Research has been holding training sessions on this technique in several Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, and Bangladesh to name a few.
Following the workshop, Kalibo's MDRRMO plans to replicate the "uitemate" training received to the 16 Barangays of Kalibo including the various academic institutions since the office frequently receives requests for training on swift water rescue and even simple water survival as the method is unique while the town is prone to water related incidents.