Lasallians mobilize for Sagip Metro 4

52004_10151679198214760_948553581_oGoods to the rescue. Volunteers transport donations from the South Gate to the Yuchengco Lobby, where the repacking and sorting of goods took place. 

The monsoon rains intensified by tropical depression “Maring” have resulted in 19 deaths, 11 injuries and around thousands of families being displaced from their homes throughout Luzon. The rains have even induced schools, government offices and financial markets to close for three days straight in Manila and other areas, as floods rendered roads impassable and workplaces inoperable. In the wake of the havoc wreaked, the University, through several of its relief efforts, has been in full force to help those who have been severely affected by the downpour.

Sagip Metro 4

Sagip Metro, a joint project between the Center for Social Concern and Action (COSCA), University Student Government (USG), and other organizations in the University, has led the pack in giving aid to the victims of typhoons Labuyo and Maring. Now on its fourth year, the program started out as a mere donation drive launched by the USG to help those who had been ravaged by typhoon Ondoy. It has since evolved into a more holistic program, focused not only on providing relief items to the victims of natural calamities but also on spearheading information campaigns and workshops that aim to orient DLSU students on disaster management protocol.

It has likewise taken on a broader scope within the University. What were once disjoint relief operations initiated by DLSU’s various offices have now been systematized and unified into a more cohesive and university-wide effort. Maria Isabel Lanada, Program Coordinator for DLSU’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Program, confirmed that the COSCA had joined forces with the USG in terms of donations and volunteer mobilization.

Sagip Metro is mainly headed by the student government’s various units, led by the USG Office of the Vice President for External Affairs (OVPEA). The Executive Board’s units coordinate regularly with each other and with other partner organizations in order to ensure that their efforts collectively benefit the entire student body. In line with this, tasks have been equitably distributed among each one.

Also engaged with Sagip Metro are other offices and organizations like the Council of Student Organizations (CSO); the Office of the Associate Vice Chancellor for Campus Services (AVCCS); Gawad Kalinga-DLSU and the college’s own Psychology Department.

Problems encountered

A number of problems, however, beset the University’s relief efforts. For one, COSCA could not immediately mobilize emergency responses due to the lack of vehicles. Lanada also laments the inclement weather affecting relief operations, which were set to start on Tuesday, August 20. COSCA was unable to accommodate volunteers and accept donations during that day and the next because the University and surrounding roads were submerged in flood.

This ultimately led to a lack of donations and initially also volunteers. Lanada says that there were not enough relief items to re-pack or sort out. In fact, when DLSU officially opened its doors for relief operation volunteers on Thursday, August 22, Sagip Metro was only able to reach out to 280 families out of the targeted 8,554.

The number of families served, however, has since increased after Thursday’s volunteer operations kick-started.

“Although we’ve dispatched goods… there are still about 4,000 families that we were not able to reach out to,” USG Vice President for External Affairs Tracey Liu shares, “Volunteerism in DLSU is not a problem for the relief operations as we did have a number of volunteers come in wanting to help out. It’s the resources and the donations that [are] the problem as these are comparatively less compared to last year.”

The slow pace of this year’s relief operations has also led to some partner communities shying away from the University’s aid as they have been earlier reached by Non-governmental Organizations and Local Government Units also dispatching relief.

Reaching out to the Lasallian community

Faculty, students, security guards, maintenance staff and other members of the Lasallian community were similarly affected by the heavy rains, trapping many in their own homes. Lanada claims that COSCA, being the outreach arm of DLSU, is only bound to serve external partner communities. “When it comes to the Lasallian community, the faculty, the students and the like it, is the administrators who are in charge,” she furthers.

However in recent years, COSCA has been tapped to assist members of the immediate community. One instance cited was the similar disaster brought about by monsoon rains and winds in 2012, where COSCA was asked to coordinate with the USG to serve faculty members, security guards, and other personnel whose homes had been submerged in the downpour.

COSCA intervening to service people within DLSU points to the fact that the University may not be following any protocol with regards to doling out aid to personnel in times of emergency. Nonetheless, respective offices have taken the initiative in conducting surveys to assess the extent of the storm’s damage among admin and personnel.

The surveys, Lanada notes, are important in order to evaluate which staff members need most help in times of crisis. Without a database containing details on each staff member, DLSU finds it difficult to equitably distribute aid to the University’s various personnel. As Lanada points out, “[The lack of a database] makes it hard to validate whether the staff member really needs help or not.” She ensures that with a solid database, the University can make its efforts towards internal stakeholders much fairer. It can, for instance, look at areas under a state of calamity, and extend more aid to personnel residing in these areas.

Meanwhile, the USG has also been circulating an online feedback form to monitor students in areas affected. Liu explains, “DLSU has no manpower to personally rescue the disaster stricken students; however, by providing them a form and basically checking which areas were affected, we can forward these to the organizations that have the means to save them.”

At present, COSCA is teaming up with the administration to turn the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Program into a full-fledged committee designed to coordinate with various sectors across the University in acting before, during, and after a natural disaster strikes. Lanada hopes that the creation of this committee would pave the way for a more definite plan of action during times of emergency.


Dana Uson

By Dana Uson

Justin Manay

By Justin Manay

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