In its 2015 Asia Pacific Disaster Report: Disasters Without Borders, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) noted that the Philippines ranks first in Asia and third in the world among countries with the highest risk to disasters. UN ESCAP defines risk as the combination of exposure and susceptibility of the country to disasters, and coping and adaptive capacity of the government and medical services. Capacity development and resilience building must not only be limited to national agencies, but it must permeate all sectors, the report added.
In the Philippines, a major challenge in the aftermath of calamities such as earthquake, typhoon, volcano eruption, or fire, is how prompt relief, rescue and retrieval operations can be implemented in the affected areas as these usually become inaccessible due to rough terrains, and narrow, destroyed or blocked roads.
Among the land-based disaster quick response units, motorcycles were found to be particularly effective and reliable. During the July 30 metro-wide earthquake drill spearheaded by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) which raised awareness on what people should do if the “Big One”—a major earthquake predicted to be up to 7.2 magnitude-strong—would hit Metro Manila and nearby provinces, a group of motorcycle riders simulated transporting the injured, easily navigating through piles of rubbles.
“When Nepal was hit by two major earthquakes within three weeks of each other, rescue and retrieval efforts were hampered by the rough terrain and landslides. We realized that, for the rescue and relief operations to be successful, response should be quick and reliable,” said Rodel Pablo, president of the Motorcycle Development Program Participants Association (MDPPA). “Motorcycles can provide a flexible and efficient transport mechanism for first-line relief workers and for the delivery of medical aid and supplies,” he added.
While the optimum transport capacity of motorcycles is limited to the rider and back rider, Pablo asserted that motorcycles can be utilized in other ways. “When communication in disaster-stricken areas proves to be difficult due to damaged infrastructure, motorcycles can initiate a makeshift communication mechanism,” Pablo said.
He particularly noted MDPPA’s experience during Super Typhoon Yolanda last November 2013. “Twenty-eight riders from the rider clubs of MDPPA experienced the ravage of Yolanda during our Motorcycle Caravan for Road Safety in Tacloban City. From the first moments of the catastrophe to the aftermath and recovery, the riders helped in the disaster management by setting up communication lines for media outlets,” he shared.
MDPPA, the leading organization of motorcycle manufacturers in the Philippines, consists of motorcycle manufacturers Honda Philippines Inc., Kawasaki Motors Philippines Corporation, Suzuki Philippines Inc., Yamaha Motor Philippines Inc., and Kymco Philippines, Inc. The organization regularly conducts motorcycle caravans for road safety.