Tsunami-hit Japanese city shares recovery tips with Philippines

Posted at 01/25/14 8:40 AM

MANILA - A city in Japan's Miyagi Prefecture that was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami on Friday shared experiences and lessons from its ongoing reconstruction efforts as the central Philippines recovers from super typhoon Haiyan that hit last November.

Shuya Takahashi of Higashi-Matsushima's Reconstruction Policy Division said the city aims to rebuild as a place that can "withstand disasters and is safe, where people can feel secure and live with smiles on their faces, and nurture industries and create jobs."

Takahashi was speaking at a seminar organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Philippine public works and highways department for the exchange of both countries' experiences and strategies on disaster management and reconstruction.

In his presentation, Takahashi disclosed that one month after the March 11, 2011, disaster, Higashi-Matsushima was already able to come up with guidelines for its recovery and reconstruction, which was subsequently followed by a 10-year reconstruction and development plan through 2020.

Takahashi stressed the importance of the local community's involvement in the development of the rehabilitation plan, as well as in coming up with disaster prevention measures like designating tsunami prevention zones and establishing collective relocation sites.

"We adopt the bottom-up process for our consensus planning," he said.

Koichi Hashimoto of the Higashi-Matsushima Construction Industry Association and Chamber of Commerce spoke of the value of recycling debris from disasters, citing Higashi-Matsushima's 97 percent recycling rate.

He said not only will natural materials be utilized for the reconstruction work, recycling can also help the affected people generate income, thereby helping rekindle the local economy.

"We have observed the Tacloban City dumpsite and saw there were spontaneous combustions. I think we can apply the micro-decomposition method there," Hashimoto said, referring to the worst-hit city located on Leyte Island.

Danny Antonio of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery, which President Benigno Aquino created after the Haiyan disaster, told reporters after the seminar that while there is no available definite and final long-term rehabilitation plan yet, what is important is that short-term rehabilitation in most of the affected areas has begun.

"We have to learn from all the stories taken up today. The Japanese model on how to do it after the event has happened looked good," Antonio said.

Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez said Japan can help the most in the technical aspect of specific concerns, such as the profitability of recycling debris, the assessment of the sea so as to implement proper zoning, and the possible replacement of electric posts with an underground system or other alternative technologies.

JICA Vice President Toshiyuki Kuroyanagi told the seminar that Japan aims to share its experience and expertise as a way of returning the favor of the Philippines' support following the 2011 disaster.

He added that listening to the Philippines' experience and strategies will be helpful to Japan in preparing for any future disasters, acknowledging that a disaster like Haiyan "can possibly hit Japan anytime."