Wired for Resilience: How LGUs are harnessing tech-driven insights

June 17, 2024


Against the breathtaking backdrop of the majestic Mayon Volcano, a group of determined individuals took to the skies—not in planes, but with drones. Equipped with state-of-the-art drones and a sense of purpose, these were the participants of the Strengthening Institutions and Empowering Localities Against Disasters and Climate Change (SHIELD) Programme’s innovative drone mapping training held in Albay Province. Known for its trailblazing disaster-resilient practices and zero casualty strategy, the province makes for an ideal setting for participants to learn from best practices and successful experiences in disaster resilience.

The atmosphere was filled with excitement as participants from the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Davao Oriental, and Quezon Province launched their drones into the clear blue sky. The iconic Mayon, with its perfect cone, loomed large in the background, providing a stunning visual and a poignant reminder of nature's power and beauty.

These provinces face the constant threat of natural hazards, where every typhoon or earthquake carries the potential to reshape lives and landscapes. Yet, amid these challenges, the spirit of these provinces remains unbroken. The community and its local governments have learned to live with vigilance and hope, always ready to rebuild and recover. The introduction of advanced drone mapping technology through the SHIELD Programme aims to provide these disaster-prone provinces with better tools to predict, prepare for, and mitigate the negative impacts of disasters and other natural hazards. 


The Faces Behind the Drones 


Rose Mary Catudio is part of Eastern Samar’s Provincial Planning and Development Office. Her work in the province involves mapping, surveying, and plotting of geotags of farm-to-market roads and water system projects. One of the challenges she encountered during her mapping work was the use of outdated equipment, which required a lot of waiting time to render and upload satellite images to mapping applications. However, despite not having the latest technology, Rose expressed optimism about her learning from the training. “It turns out that drones can be used for digitizing maps. We've only used Google Earth before. Our place has many remote, upland areas that are difficult to reach for mapping, and when there are calamities, it's easier to access through aerial views. It's easy to see the damages caused by the calamity," she said. 



Meanwhile, novice drone operator Christian Jasper Portes from Quezon Province’s Agriculture Office highlighted how agriculture can benefit from drone technology. Activities such as drone seeding, where drones are fitted out with seed-carrying containers, and crop health monitoring to keep watch for potential problems and optimize the field in a timely manner. “Drones can already be used in agriculture since we’re already into modern farming. Validation and monitoring will be much easier. The drone will take care of checking the farmland or any agriculture-related areas for us,” he shared.


Learning from the Best 


Albay Province has a storied history of overcoming disasters, primarily due to perennial typhoons and the eruptions of Mayon Volcano. Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Head Dr. Cedric D. Daep's passion for disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) is contagious. He eagerly shared his knowledge with the participants and emphasized the need for local government units to prioritize digital mapping as a tool for providing essential information for simplified planning and risk assessment. "This is the only tool that can make DRRM and the planning officers' jobs easier," he declared. 

The training aimed to provide remote pilots with the essential skills for thorough risk analysis and effective disaster response. It covered a range of topics, from the fundamentals of risk and digital mapping to the complexities of drone operations. Participants learned about flight planning, on-site pre-flight procedures, drone operation, post-flight procedures, and map creation. The hands-on sessions included actual drone flight operations, image acquisition, and map rendering, which ensured that trainees gained practical experience alongside theoretical knowledge.



The handover of drones signifies SHIELD's forward-thinking approach to DRRM. By merging cutting-edge technology with hands-on practical training, this initiative addresses current disaster management needs and lays a strong foundation for future challenges. With Mayon Volcano as a silent witness, the newly trained drone operators are ready to face the challenges ahead, transforming their purpose and passion for disaster risk reduction into actionable, life-saving strategies. For the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Davao Oriental, and Quezon, where natural hazards and extreme weather events are a constant threat, the ability to map affected areas quickly and accurately is a game-changer. These newly handed-over drones, and with the comprehensive training, enable the local disaster response teams to be finally wired for resilience. With precision and speed, they can now conduct rapid assessments, pinpoint vulnerable areas, and plan evacuations or interventions that can save lives and resources.



The Strengthening Institutions and Empowering Localities against Disasters and Climate Change (SHIELD) Programme is implemented by the UNDP Philippines and consortium partners: Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), National Resilience Council (NRC), Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), and United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), together with government partners: Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Office of the Civil Defense (OCD), and Department of Science and Technology (DOST), with generous support from the Australian Embassy in the Philippines. The program aims to assist the Government of the Philippines in addressing the increasing risks of disasters and climate change, one community at a time.