Cooperation displayed by Japanese citizens and perceived corruption of Filipino officials differentiate recent Japanese and Philippine disaster management efforts.
Assoc. Prof. Amparo Adelina Umali, III, PhD, made this conclusion in synthesizing case presentations made by UP students and their visiting Japanese counterparts in a Global Studies 197 Special Topics on Cultures of Disaster: Learning from Life Experiences offered at the UP Center for International Studies (UPCIS), where she is coordinator of East and Southeast Asian Studies.
The students exchanged information on their countries’ disaster management experiences during small group discussions in the class.
The Japanese, who came to Diliman on February 28, discussed the efforts of Japan’s farmers who cooperated with their government’s disaster management program in the wake of the 2011 earthquake-and-tsunami disaster that produced the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis.
UPCIS students, some of whom visited Ferris University in November last year as part of the Ferris University Short Stay Visit/Exchange Program, discussed unsatisfactory Philippine government rehabilitation efforts in Eastern Visayas in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, where official data showed only 33% of housing targets had been completed as of 2017.
During the small group discussions, the Japanese students expressed trust on their government, while the Filipinos wondered where the rehabilitation funds had gone.
Japanese professors, who accompanied the visiting students, stressed the importance of government efforts for disaster mitigation.
“We have to conduct some research about the cause [of the natural disasters] and why this problem happened. So I think this is the role of the university,” Assoc. Prof. Takaaki Kobayashi of Yokohama National University (YNU) said.
Assoc. Prof. Kotaro Yonemura of YNU said that with foreigners living in Japan today, a miscommunication problem can arise if a natural disaster occurs. Japanese local governments are improving their disaster prevention effects, as seen in the use of several languages in documents and signages, added Prof. Chiho Ogaya of Ferris University (FU).
Prof. Yuji Kanamura of Wayo Women’s University (WWU) said that the Philippines and Japan experience the same kind of natural disasters, like typhoons and volcano eruptions. “This is a good chance, not only for the discussion, to save lives in the natural disasters that will happen in the future,” he added.
Assoc. Prof. Masako Suginohara of Ferris University said that the joint presentation was a “very good opportunity for students from Japan, the Philippines, and some other countries to talk about their own experience, their knowledge, and exchange their views.”
In his closing remarks, Prof. Wystan de la Peña, UPCIS coordinator of European Studies thanked the Japanese students for their visit. “You capitalize the ‘I’ of ‘International’ in ‘Center for International Studies,’” he said.
De la Peña emphasized the need for people from different countries to come together to talk about mutual problems and issues confronting them. “We do international studies because what we want to do, at the end of the day, is to have international understanding,” he added.
The UPCIS students gave the Japanese a campus tour after the class, and UPCIS hosted a Lebanese-themed dinner in the evening.
The exchange program — a brainchild of Umali and Ogaya – is modelled after the Global Studies Tour organized by the UPCIS and the YNU, which the two professors initiated. The Japanese visit is part of YNU’s International and Business Law Field Study Trip 2018 conducted with Ferris University and Wayo Women’s University and followed the UPCIS students’ visit to YNU and FU last year. (East and Southeast Asian Studies Division, Center for International Studies)