The sod was officially turned on Friday for the the reconstruction of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Speyside Centre.
Aiding in getting the centre back up and running is Japan, a country known for its proactive approach to handling natural disasters.
In March 2018, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the Japanese Embassy, through the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security project, and the Tobago House of Assembly. The MoU signified the collaboration between the parties and the donation of $1.38 million towards the reconstruction of CERT Speyside, which serves as a rural response mechanism for the Windward part of the island.
Addressing those present at the site on Friday, Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles expressed his gratitude, acknowledging the opportunity to create a new modern facility which will form a critical part of Tobago's natural disaster response.
“The situation in the Bahamas should be a startling reminder that in this region, we are at the mercy of nature. Scientists suggests that with the effects of climate change, the intensity of natural disasters is likely to increase and therefore the onus rests squarely on us to be prepared and disaster-ready. As important as our prayers are to the best possible outcome, we grow up knowing that the Lord helps those who helps themselves, and that is why I am proud that the THA continues to train our young people and vulnerable communities in disaster management,” he said.
“This sod-turning for the new CERT Speyside office is a promise that the assembly will do everything possible to enhance the safety and security of communities in the northeast and by extension, Tobago.”
Representative for Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside Farley Augustine recalled that CERT’s Speyside Centre was closed in 2016, in adherence OSH (occupational safety and health) requirements.
He said he was pleased with the input of the Japan embassy.
“We should all perhaps be angry, be angry that small territories, especially small island developing states like TT, like the Commonwealth of the Bahamas...we are perhaps the least responsible for the climate changes that we see happening, but we are the most susceptible to these changes.
“What Japan has done, through the embassy here in TT, is to demonstrate how perhaps the other countries in the G7 and in the other metropolitan states in the world ought to respond to this kind of phenomenon, which is to partner with small island developing states like ours in ensuring that we have a suitable response to these climate changes.”
Augustine stressed, "Speyside is most happy to be host to this centre that will serve the people of Tobago East and Tobago Northeast very well.”
He called on the community to respect the facilities.
“Respect it in so far as no vandalism; respect it in so far as ensuring that you protect it as if it's your own –in fact, it is your own – and respect it in so far as showing gratitude to the people of Japan who have so graciously gifted us these facilities.”
Japanese ambassador Tatsuo Hirayam said it made him feel honoured and proud that his first mission in Tobago is related to a project geared at enhancing co-operative and collaborated relations between Japan and Tobago.
“All of us know that we cannot control the force of nature," he said, "and the only thing we can do is to make ourselves better prepared so that serious damage can be prevented or mitigated. In this respect, the project to rehabilitate the Disaster and Risk Management Centre is aiming to do exactly that and I am extremely encouraged and excited that our assistance under our Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security project is going to contribute to realising this objective. It is in everyone’s interest that this project will be completed on time and within budget.”