As part of the East-West Center Alumni Incubator program’s efforts to establish environmental leadership in the ASEAN region, two of its program graduates, Ms. Kimberly Ante and Ms. Pamela Luber, recently conducted the pre-challenge primer for the Bulkanomiya Design Challenge on June 26, 2018 at the Bicol University College of Engineering in Legazpi City, in the Philippine province of Albay. The challenge aims to gather the best student ideas in improving Albay’s resiliency through innovative and creative systems that reframe the Mayon Volcano as an asset rather than a threat.
Mayon Volcano has erupted more than 47 times in the last 500 years. The latest eruption happened in January 2018, and a total of 80,000 people were evacuated. More than 10,000 farmers have lost their livelihood and agricultural damage was estimated at Php 185 million (USD 3.5 million). For a province heavily dependent on agriculture and ecotourism, the recurring eruptions of Mayon continue to affect Albay’s ability to grow economically.
The primer built interest and sparked dialogue around this matter, introducing the design challenge concept to Bicol University’s students. Samples of successful design challenges implemented in the United States were presented to show how student-led innovative thinking can help transform existing systems in disaster-prone areas. The session ended with an introduction to YSEALI, the East-West Center, and the US Embassy Philippines, as well as their efforts in empowering Filipino youth leaders through funding that enables them to positively influence not just the Philippines but also the rest of ASEAN.
This is not the first time that the United States has been involved in humanitarian work and resilience promotion in Albay. Last 2016, the USNS Mercy, a floating hospital that has come to the aid of partners, visited Legazpi for a two-week humanitarian and disaster preparedness mission. Legazpi became the seventh city to join USAID’s Cities Development Initiative (CDI) through a Memorandum of Understanding signed last May 2017. Through this initiative, USAID works closely with city governments outside of Metro Manila to fulfill their potential as engines of inclusive, environmentally sustainable, and resilient growth, a concept similarly presented by the Bulkanomiya Design Challenge.
Pam Luber is a 2018 YSEALI Fellow for Environmental Issues and Communications Specialist at the World Wide Fund for Nature, Philippines.