Tuesday, 27 February 2024 / Published in The Other Side


I am Gecile C Gonzales, Civil Defense Officer IV, designated as Operations Section Chief of Office of Civil Defense- Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OCD-BARMM) in the Philippines. Since 2013, I have been employed at OCD BARMM. In addition, I assisted with other Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM) trainings as a Resource Person and Facilitator.

Our area is home to both human-induced and natural risks. Among the most difficult disasters I experienced was the Marawi Siege in 2017. There was an armed struggle between violent extremist groups and Philippine government forces in Marawi, Lanao Del Sur, that lasted for five months. The armed conflict resulted in the massive displacement of people to neighbouring regions. OCD ARMM then led the consequence management by manning the National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) supporting the National Incident Management Team (NIMT) to address the immediate needs of the Individually Displaced Persons (IDPs) and other affected individuals. For about a year, our regional office was also involved in Marawi’s early recovery and rehabilitation.

We also have the recent experience with the effects of STS Paeng in 2023, wherein the ASEAN – ERAT (Emergency Response and Assessment Team) conducted Rapid Damage and Needs Analysis (RDANA) to the severely affected areas brought about by the effects of typhoon in our region, and the AHA Centre augmented various Non-Food Items (NFIs).

Our ability to be strategic thinkers, goal-oriented, and imaginative young leaders who can adjust to the new normal and changing dynamics in disaster risk reduction and management has been enhanced by the life-altering AHA Centre Executive Leadership in Emergency and Disaster Management Programme (ACE LEDMP) Executive Level.

After roughly four (4) months of in-person and virtual instruction, we have expanded our knowledge base and had the chance to hear from facilitators and other participants from other ASEAN nations who shared their real-world experiences as well as their ideas. I have witnessed the highest level of collaboration and dedication from my fellow programme participants during the class sessions.

We learned about the system thinking model through the mental map exercise, participated in a simulated press conference, learned how to handle crisis communication, and developed strong project proposals.

The Study Visit to Japan in November 2023 gave us inspiration on how the government invests in technology and people. Disaster Risk Reduction and Management became their way of life even to younger generations. Additionally, they even have “Kataribe” or storytelling and museums in order to preserve the lessons from past disasters. The simple principle of self-reliance, mutual, and public assistance has made a deep impression to us that we can apply to our countries.

Mr. Elkan Rahimov, the IFRC Country Cluster Delegation in ASEAN, stressed the importance of key characteristics of effective leadership during our Leaders Talk, especially in the challenging context of disaster response. The central theme of his lecture was the unwavering importance of integrity, emphasising how leaders must uphold moral standards even in the face of hardship. He underlined how crucial it is for leaders to have problem-solving skills, demonstrating their ability to effectively complete organisational objectives and initiatives in the face of obstacles. Prioritising efficient human resource management was another key component of his leadership style. He counseled executives to recognise and capitalise on their teams’ strengths while fostering a collaborative work atmosphere.

Mr. Rahimov also talked on the important topic of stress management, emphasising the demanding nature of leadership roles and advocating for preventative measures to ensure the wellbeing of team members as well as leaders. Essentially, his talk made a strong case for the need for leaders in the tough emergency response industry to exhibit traits like integrity, tenacity, effective leadership, and a commitment to the general welfare of their teams.

The best part is that, despite our varied backgrounds, the ACE LEDMP programme provided a great platform for us to forge new relationships, foster camaraderie and collaboration, forge a sense of solidarity, and enhance our group’s capacity in the field of disaster risk reduction and management.

Returning to our home nations, we face the challenge of ensuring that all of the knowledge we have acquired will not be lost because we will continue to be change agents in our communities and organisations and because all of the ASEAN nations will continue to be connected and collaborate to create a region that is safer, more adaptable, and disaster-resilient.


Written by: Gecile C. Gonzales | Photos by: AHA Centre

Tuesday, 27 February 2024 / Published in AHA Centre Diary 2


In the evolving and complex field of disaster management, it is crucial to possess the ability to anticipate, adapt, and respond effectively to changes. Understanding the importance of preparedness for challenges, the AHA Centre organised a Strategic Workshop on 28-29 November 2023 in Jakarta, Indonesia, with a focus on enhancing foresight and planning capabilities.

The Workshop was supported by the project Leveraging ASEAN Capacities for Emergency Response (LACER), with funding support from the European Union. The workshop’s discussions were co facilitated by the AHA Centre represented by Mr. Abdul Aleem Siddiq, Assistant Director of Strategic Planning, Monitoring and Partnerships, and LACER representative Dr. Peter Månsson, Organisational Development Expert of the MSB – (Swedish Civil Contingency Agency). Both Aleem and Dr Månsson brought clear insights from an organisational perspective, assisting participants to understand how strategies and future thinking could be implemented practically within the AHA Centre. Their combined expertise and diverse perspectives laid an inspirative and innovative ground for ideas and strategies, helping the AHA Centre to chart a clear path towards becoming a sustainable and resilient organisation.

The purpose of this workshop was to express the aspirations of the AHA Centre in envisioning the future. By improving foresight and planning skills AHA Centre aims to equip ourselves with the tools and knowledge to navigate through the unpredictable disaster management landscape.

This workshop was a milestone in AHA Centre’s journey towards capacity development. Facilitators carefully selected methodologies and tools for foresight and planning, ensuring that the platforms were relevant, engaging and could provide invaluable insights into future challenges in disaster management. This event served as a platform for knowledge sharing and critical thinking sessions, laying a foundation for enhancing capabilities at the AHA Centre while also strengthening readiness to handle diverse disaster scenarios effectively.

During the workshop, participants were encouraged to think about desired scenarios while also examining how AHA Centre can achieve its objectives. The main takeaway from the workshop was the importance of fostering a thinking mindset among participants. This involves cultivating a culture that values strategies in anticipating challenges of relying solely on reactive measures in disaster management.

The workshop spanned across two days, with each day focusing on different areas. The first day was dedicated to foresight, where participants delved into potential future trends and norms in disaster management that could significantly impact the operations of the AHA Centre. The aim of this foresighting process was to instil a mindset within the AHA Centre enabling participants to anticipate and adapt to changes effectively.

The second day revolved around planning, which was a phase where challenges were thoroughly examined. Participants worked collaboratively to design objectives and activities aimed at overcoming these obstacles. This combination of foresight and planning highlighted the AHA Centres approach towards effective disaster management.

Furthermore, the workshop also prioritised addressing cross-cutting issues such as gender equality, human rights, and environmental considerations. Participants identified concerns that could potentially compromise the integrity of the AHA Centre, including funding and envisioning a resilient and adaptable organisation. During the strategic planning sessions, capacity building for staff members also emerged as a focus, emphasising gaps in capacity and underscoring the importance of activities aimed at strengthening staff capabilities.

The techniques and tools used during the AHA Centre Strategic workshop are applicable in a wide range of situations. The AHA Centre is optimistic about incorporating these ideas into its daily operations, which will improve strategies and action plans. Additionally, the AHA Centre plans to organise workshops in the future to keep learning and developing these skills.

In conclusion this workshop on building capacity marks an advancement for the AHA Centre, as it not only equipped participants with skills and insights but it also fostered a forward-thinking culture that is vital for effective disaster management. The knowledge gained from this workshop will undoubtedly guide the AHA Centre towards a resilient and prepared future. Through learning and adaptation, the AHA Centre remains committed to being an effective resource for all ASEAN Member States.

Written by: Gerardy Grananda | Photos by: AHA Centre

Tuesday, 27 February 2024 / Published in AHA Centre Diary 1


Accidents, medical emergencies, and emergencies can happen at any time: at home, in the workplace, and for AHA Centre staff – during emergency response missions on the field. Realising this, the AHA Centre recognised the critical need for its staff to be adept in first aid. This led to the implementation of comprehensive First Aid and Safety Training programs, designed to empower staff members with the knowledge and skills necessary to handle medical emergencies effectively.

The Basic-Level First Aid and Safety Training was conducted on 4-5 October 2023 in Bogor, Indonesia. AHA Centre staff who had not received prior first aid training at the Centre were equipped with fundamental life support skills, including how to handle wounds, the usage of first aid kits, and procedures for Adult CPR and the utilisation of Automated External Defibrilators (AEDs). Participating staff also had the opportunity to practice workplace emergency protocols, including evacuation procedures and the usage of emergency response equipment.

For AHA Centre staff who had completed the Basic Level training in 2023, the Advanced Level course became the next step. This training proved crucial, given the often-challenging environments and situations that AHA Centre staff face during emergency response deployment. The Advanced Level training encompassed advanced techniques for managing life-threatening conditions and critical interventions, handling respiratory and circulatory emergencies, management of soft tissue injuries, head, brain, spinal injuries, abdominal injuries, fractures, and dislocations, and the usage of medical gases and advanced equipment for the transport of casualties.

The first aid and safety training courses underscore the AHA Centre’s commitment to ensuring that its staff are not just capable of carrying out disaster response but are also well-prepared to face emergencies. By investing in these trainings, the Centre also strives to enhance the capabilities, safety, and well-being of its valuable staff.

The First Aid Trainings for AHA Centre Staff are supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

Written by: Gladys Respati | Photos by: AHA Centre

Tuesday, 27 February 2024 / Published in Partnership


In October 2023, the AHA Centre and Japan strengthened their partnership through the signing of two Memorandums of Intent (MoIs) with the Asian Disaster Reduction Centre (ADRC) in Kobe, Japan, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The two MoIs were established to promote, facilitate, and strengthen regional and international cooperation in the field of disaster risk reduction and emergency response. Executive Director of the AHA Centre, Mr. Lee Yam Ming, Executive Director of ADRC Mr. SASAHARA Akio, and JICA Chief Representative to ASEAN Mr. YASUI Takehiro participated in the Signing Ceremony held in Ha Long, Viet Nam at the 19th Meeting of the AHA Centre Governing Board.
The event was witnessed by Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development H.E. Le Minh Hoan, Deputy Secretary General of ASEAN for ASEAN Socio-cultural Community H.E. Ekkaphab Phanthavong, Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan H.E. HORII Manabu, and Members of the AHA Centre Governing Board.

The AHA Centre and ADRC have agreed to promote cooperation in the areas of disaster risk reduction and emergency response, enhancement of the qualifications of ASEAN experts and specialists, and the facilitation of learning and exchange between interregional organisations. Moreover, this agreement aims to introduce innovative information and communication systems in monitoring, prevention, and assessment of disaster risks in ASEAN.

Meanwhile, the AHA Centre’s cooperation with JICA will focus on promoting effective emergency response preparedness and prevention. This includes areas such as strengthening of AHA Centre capacity including in disaster information management, improvement of AHA Centre training programmes (e.g. ASEAN-ERAT courses), and the promotion of knowledge and experience sharing in disaster management. To ensure the implementation of this collaboration, a JICA team expert will be deployed to the AHA Centre.

The joint collaboration between the AHA Centre, ADRC, and JICA marks an important milestone in the 50 years of ASEAN-Japan friendship and cooperation. Not only that, but it also sets a model for interregional partnership to tackle global challenges in disaster management. With the enduring support of Japan, AHA Centre and ASEAN Member States are positioned to enhance the region’s disaster response capabilities, towards a safer, more resilient ASEAN.

Written by: Gladys Respati | Photos by: AHA Centre