April 1st, 2010
by Alfonso Ebanks

[private] v8-4-Our IslandsOn the 12 of December in 1990 the National Congress of Honduras approved the decree of law number 9-90E. This same decree derogated the decree of law number 33 that in 1973 had created the Consejo Permanente de Emergencia Nacional. It also derogated decree number 202 of 1975 that reformed the 1973 law. On the date mentioned above the Comission Permanente de Contingencias (COPECO) was born.

This organization like all others designed to be called to action in the case of a national emergency had but one basic mission, disaster response. During the chaos left behind by the Hurricane Mitch it was clear the COPECO was ill prepared for such catastrophic damage caused by the category five cyclone. USAID came to the assistance of COPECO and helped the government agency improve their abilities in the areas of damage assessment and emergency communication. It has now been over eleven years since the visit of Hurricane Mitch and COPECO has grown. In my opinion this growth has not been very beneficial for the country and I believe it has seriously distracted COPECO from its primary role as an emergency response organization.

COPECO has somehow forgotten or ignores its own bylaws such as Article 5 that states: “The COPECO will have as its fundamental objective the adoption of policies and measures to address the population, rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas damaged by the impact of natural phenomena that affect economic activity and welfare of the population and plan and develop activities to prevent negative consequences of such phenomena.”

This organization in the past few years has been slowly creeping into areas outside of its mandate such as taking over the job of the National Meteorological Service. COPECO are now reporting the weather and issues weather alerts and all this without having one trained meteorologist on their payroll. The television news teams are now consulting COPECO for their weather reports.

In all other countries of the world when there is a marine phenomenon that could adversely affect local shipping, the weather service of that country will issue a warning that will notify the mariners of the severity of the storm, such warnings may be listed as “small craft warning” or “general shipping warning”. COPECO is the only organization in the world that has the power to close down a seaport when in their uneducated opinion the vessels could be in danger. The seaport closings do not apply to foreign ships that may be in Honduran seaports at the time, it is only the local coastal freighters and local fishing vessels that must stay home. We islanders have been sailing these waters for two hundred years, we know our vessels and we know the sea and we should be given the weather data and be left to decide whether to sail on not.
When we island people were boarding up our houses and storing water and food supplies getting ready for Mitch the people of the Tegucigalpa (the headquarters city of COPECO) were attending a football game unaware of the approaching monster.

The fact is that the island of Guanaja took the brunt of the storm yet we lost five souls and on the mainland there were over 8 thousand deaths.

COPECO has also invalidated the seismic department of the National Autonomous University by reporting on seismic activity and pretending to warn the populace of future seismic events. Since the giant 8.8 earthquake in Chile, COPECO has gone to the airways with advice on how to build earthquake proof buildings and are right now petitioning the national congress to pass a law that would require all new buildings to be earthquake proof, with COPECO issuing permit and inspecting such constructions.

Somebody has got to stop this organization and remind its commissioner of its fundamental objective or soon it will be running the schools, the churches and the maybe whole country. [/private]

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