Partners in building resilient communities-A A +A
Friday, August 30, 2013
By Andrew Alex Uy
FROM disaster management to disaster risk reduction.
Managing the effects of disasters is not new for a country like the Philippines. As early as June 1978, we have been strengthening the country’s disaster control capability and establishing the national program on community disaster preparedness under Presidential Decree 1566. Through this, institutional mechanisms have been formed and developed.
However, given the many changes in our environment, climate and ways of living, the country noted the basic provisions of PD 1566 were insufficient.
We can no longer just manage the disaster. We need to address and reduce the underlying causes of people’s vulnerability to disasters in order to reduce their risks. We need to accept that collectively, we can work together and do something that even if natural and human-induced hazards arise, they will not necessarily result in disasters in our lives and communities.
On May 27, 2010, Republic Act 10121, otherwise known as the “Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010” was enacted. Through it, a new approach towards disasters was adopted through the new national DRRM framework which aims for us to have “a Safer, Adaptive and Disaster Resilient Filipino Communities towards Sustainable Development.”
From the top-down and centralized approach on disaster management, the new law promotes a bottom-up participatory disaster risk reduction. The framework shows that mitigating potential impacts of risks, preventing hazards and being prepared for disasters will substantially reduce loss of life and damages to social, economic and environmental sectors.
The bottom up participatory process will enhance the people’s level of awareness, strengthen multi stake holder partnerships and encourage pooling of resources. These positive changes are complemented by mainstreaming DRR and CCA measures into our national and local plans as major step to refocus our efforts towards achieving our development goals.
Instead of viewing disasters as an effect of physical hazards, we now look at them as a reflection of our vulnerability or the characteristics and circumstances of our community, system or asset which make it susceptible to the damaging effects of a hazard. Its integrated approach to social and human development generally veers away from merely reacting to disasters but rather adopting a more proactive stance.
DRRM efforts at the national and local levels
Years since this law was passed, much effort have been given by the different government agencies in partnership with various NGOs, including the academe, media and other key stakeholders --- all working together to help build people’s resilience to disasters. These efforts came in the form of tools, equipment and approaches to help understand the science behind the hazards and risks and how best we can best help people understand and apply them.
Examples of the big initiatives would include the READY project; Project Noah of DOST; PRIMMR and GOFAR project; and the conduct of trainings and development of capacity building and other related tools and guidelines to help mainstream DRRM and CCA into the local development plans and programs.
However, the national and line agencies and its partners cannot and must not do it alone. We all need to work together – from top down; bottom up; left to right; right to left; and from all directions—mutually complementing and reinforcing each other’s initiatives and actions.
At the local level, we can all start with the institutionalization of local DRRM Offices at the provincial, city, municipal and barangay levels. These mandated offices will serve as the convergence point of all DRRM and CCA efforts on the ground – before, during and after a disaster strikes. These offices need to have permanent DRRM personnel who will ensure communities are prepared to reduce their risks to disasters. DRRM is more than just a full time job – it is a commitment of the officer and personnel, the LGU and of the local chief executive.
Section 21 of the RA 10121 transformed the Calamity Fund into the DRRM Fund. The change in name brings forth a change in how the fund must be used and allocated. Now, the DRRM should be not less than 5% of the estimated revenue from regular sources and that 70% of this fund will be set aside to support disaster risk management and risk reduction activities.
Examples of which will include the conduct of hazard and risk mapping to help the LGUs and communities identify, with help from science and actual experience, the hazard prone areas with the end view of relocating people, establishments and structures away from these areas. The installation of Early Warning Systems (EWS) using the watershed or riverbasin approach is another example in order to make sure that the warnings come from areas where the head waters come from and give warning to those living down the line, helping them act early on and move away from dangers.
Mainstreaming DRRM and CCA into local development plans and annual investment plans and programs are other concrete examples on how the fund can be used, including the conduct of various capacity building, advocacy, and disaster preparedness activities (like simulation exercises) and the purchase of disaster response equipment, supplies and medicines.
On the other hand, while the law pushes for a DRRM approach and mindset, it also accepts the fact that residual risks will always be present and disasters are still likely to happen. And so, it allocates 30% of the fund as a Quick Response Fund (QRF) to help LGUs mobilize people and resources in times of disasters. But relying on disaster response and preparedness to respond will NOT be enough. We need to accept this and we need to work together and act together in more ways than one in order to realize a safer and and more disaster prepared Filipino communities.
More than just following the provisions and principles of RA 10121, DRRM is our right; our responsibility; and our commitment to our people today and in generations to come.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 31, 2013.