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The Philippines has always been familiar with natural disasters. As a tropical country, located right in the middle of the typhoon belt and with an active earthquake zone, it is not surprising that the country has been named by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) as “one of the most disaster-prone countries in Asia.”

As one of world’s developing countries and recognized as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, the Philippines, with its thriving business landscape, cannot afford to be saddled with the uncertainties brought about by natural disasters. The local IT-BPM industry, dubbed as the country’s “sunshine industry” and home to more than a million workers who rely on the industry for livelihood, is extremely susceptible to disruptions brought about by calamities. A prolonged typhoon season, for instance, brings risks to the operations of hundreds of companies that are part of the BPO industry.

With this in mind, the IT & Business Process Association (IBPAP) recently staged the First IT-BPM Business Resiliency Summit at the Novotel Araneta Center where more than 230 attendees from different IT-BPM companies were educated in proper response and management during calamities and natural disasters. Different topics on disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and resiliency were discussed during the one-day event.

A host of speakers shared first-hand experiences and valuable tips in Disaster Preparedness. These include Dr. Goh Moh Heng, president, BCM Institute in Singapore, who spoke on “Disaster Preparedness & Resiliency: Lessons from Global Best Practices”; Dr. Alfredo Mahar Lagmay, executive director of Project NOAH, who talked about “Preparing for the Next Big One” – typhoons, earthquakes & resources of government agencies that can help enterprises & families prepare for disasters; Dir. Romeo Fajardo, deputy administrator – Office of Civil Defense, who touched on the on role and capabilities of OCD & NDRRMC; and Dr. Renato Solidum, director – PHIVOLCS, who talked about prioritizing preparedness of individuals and their families first. Different sites/mobile apps that can be used for “preparedness were also featured during the talk.

Disasters have now become the norm. We have to make preparedness a norm,” Director Fajardo pointed out.

For his part, Dr. Goh stressed the value of turning business process continuity practices in to standard operating procedure that will enable business operations to rapidly adapt and respond to internal and external dynamic changes.

“We’re not designed to work together. In a disaster, we work together, but daily we don’t and that’s the work that you need to do – make people work together without a disaster. That’s business continuity,” he said.

Under Response: Forging a Robust Disaster Response Strategy – Putting the Philippines to the Test,Guillermo Luz, advisor of the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), shared his inputs about Risk Reduction via Quick Response as well as the different initiatives of PDRF for disaster preparedness & recovery and training programs.

A panel discussion on the topic, “How quick is quick response?” was also conducted and moderated by Rommel Ignacio, IBPAP Quality Council. Tapped as panellists and who gave valuable insight were Guillermo Manuel Luz, Carlos C. Padolina, Council Member – NAPC-Victims of Disaster and Calamities (VDC) Sectoral Council, Andre Joseph T. Fournier, Project Manager Information Management – PDRF, Lope A. Doromal Jr., Chief Technology Officer- IBM Philippines, and Michael Mangohig, Risk Management & Business Continuity- Safeway Philtech Inc.

The discussion touched on topics including extending training and helping communities, coordination and collaboration between local government units, communities, and business, and digital bayanihan.

The last topic was Recovery & Resiliency: Business Resiliency for Philippine Companies”. Hon. Joey Salcedo, governor of the Province of Albay in Region V talked about “Resiliency: Next Level Business Recovery.” Governor Salceda talked about community resiliency as practiced in Albay, highlighting the culture of preparedness in Albay and how the province has maintained to be zero-casualty despite the catastrophes faced by the province.

“Protecting and providing help to people should be the government’s job. In Albay we do that by carefully studying our lands and making sure to develop programs that keeps our people informed and safe from calamity,” said Salceda, putting emphasis on the importance of using information gathered from research and using tools like the Smart InfoBoard in hazard identification, capacity and risk analysis and evaluation, which have been highlighted by the “Zero casualty, faster recovery” goal in Albay’s resiliency strategy against disasters. Salceda’s presentation also suggested the advantages of replicating the Albay model for emergency preparedness and having contingency plans in place in case of disaster.

A panel discussion zooming in on “Community Resiliency IS Business Resiliency” moderated by Commissioner Mon Ibrahim, Deputy Executive Director, DOST-ICTO. Gov. Salcedo served as a fitting closing to the event. The gentlemen were joined by Felino A. Palafox, Jr., Principal Architect-Urban Planner, Palafox Associates and President, Palafox Architecture Group, Atty. Lesley Jeanne Y. Cordero, Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist, World Bank Manila, Jerome B. Zayas, Senior Scientist- Earthquake and Megacities Initiative, and Jeremias A. Astrero, BCCE, CSP, Enterprise Business Continuity Management Strategic Support and Security- Teleperformance.

Through the First IT-BPM Business Resiliency Summit, the local IT-BPM industry can be assured that significant steps are being undertaken to protect, safeguard and strengthen is people, its operation and the growth it continues to enjoy.