Are we prepared for disaster?

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Sunday, July 13, 2014


MORE than half a year since back-to-back calamities hit Cebu, are its local governments more prepared to deal with disasters?

Most barangays have organized disaster committees or councils, but many lack comprehensive plans and funds, officials of Cebu Province and four Metro Cebu cities said in interviews.

“Ayaw intawn pasagdi ninyo si mayor (Do not let your mayor do everything by himself),” Baltazar Tribunalo Jr., provincial disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) officer, advised department heads in all local governments. “Si mayor daghan na kaayo’g gipangtrabaho (The mayor already has so many things to do).

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According to records of the Provincial DRRM Office, at least 22 towns or cities in Cebu Province have not yet established a local disaster risk reduction and management council (LDRRMC) and have not yet organized a DRRM office.

Are we prepared for disaster
CEBU. At the height of typhoon Yolanda last November 8, 2013, this disaster risk management team in Daanbantayan town helped residents move from their evacuation center, which the typhoon severely damaged, to an adjacent building in Barangay Poblacion. They clung to a rope to make the passage swifter. (Sun.Star Photo/Allan Cuizon)


Tribunalo observed that local officials are aware of the risk of disasters, but some still have to make DRRM a priority. Also, there are only a few DRRM practitioners, he added.

One silver lining from the earthquake that struck last October and typhoon Yolanda the month after that was that barangays were motivated to be more active in disaster preparedness, said Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak.

“They saw the importance of disaster preparedness and response, that is why became very participative,” Tumulak said.

Yolanda, which struck last November 8, killed more than 6,200 people and left a trail of destruction across the Visayas. Damage to infrastructure and crops reached around P40 billion.

The magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck Bohol and Cebu less than a month before Yolanda killed more than 200 persons and damaged some historic churches; in Cebu, the Cebu City Medical Center and the Palace of Justice were damaged so severely they were declared unfit for occupancy after the quake.

Under Republic Act 10121 (Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act), all local governments must set aside five percent of their estimated revenue to pay for disaster preparedness programs.

These funds can be used for, among others, training; buying lifesaving equipment, supplies and medicines; conducting post-disaster activities; paying for calamity insurance; and building evacuation centers.

But it’s not always enough.

Raul Cabanero, chief of Barangay Bulacao in Talisay City, estimates that 40 percent of the city’s barangays are not that prepared because they lack funds.

“Dali ra man pormahon nang komitiba, ang lisud kay asa pangitaun ang budget (It’s easy to form committees, but tough to get funding),” Cabanero said.

Section 12 of the same law states a DRRM office must be created in every province, city and town, as well as a disaster risk reduction and management committee in every barangay.

Tribunalo said that the Province will help these LGUs by training their DRRM officers.

The Provincial Government targets that by the end of 2014, half of all LGUs in Cebu will have a disaster preparedness and contingency plan, he said.

By 2016, Tribunalo added, all the LGUs should have active, participative and equipped LDRRM offices.

So far, only 14 of 51 LGUs in Cebu have established local DRRM councils and DRRM offices.

These are San Fernando, Talisay City, Naga City, Carcar City, Dalaguete, Oslob, Samboan, Ginatilan, Barili, Medellin, Daanbantayan, Bantayan, San Francisco and Consolacion.

The towns and cities that have local DRRM councils but no DRRM office yet are Boljoon, Santander, Badian, Moalboal, Ronda, Carmen, Catmon, Mandaue City, Pinamungahan, Asturias, San Remigio, Madridejos, Tabogon and Bogo City.

Cebu City

In Cebu City, a barangay-based disaster risk reduction and management council (BDRRMC) was organized in each of its 80 villages.

“We made an extra effort to form a disaster body in all 80 barangays of the city,” said Tumulak, who, aside from serving in the City Council, also chairs the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CCDRRMC).

Cebu City was also the first city in Metro Cebu to come up with a disaster reduction and management plan until 2016. This includes geo-hazard maps that identify areas at high risk of landslides and floods.

The CCDRRMC trained them in basic life support; water and land search and rescue and transport; and responding to fires and other emergencies.

Tumulak said the top performers among the barangays are Basak Pardo, Apas, Quiot, Inayawan, Mambaling, Labangon, Mabolo and Binaliw, while barangays in the upland areas still need to be monitored.

Lapu-Lapu City

Each of the 30 barangays in Lapu-Lapu City already has a DRRM committee.

The committee, headed by the barangay captain, operates under the Barangay Development Council, said Andy Berame, deputy action officer of the City Disaster Management Office.

Although each barangay has a DRRM committee-which is tasked to implement disaster preparedness, mitigation and recovery measures-the committees have yet to create disaster and contingency plans.

“Contingency planning will come after the hazard mapping, which we will be doing in every barangay starting next month,” Berame said.

Through hazard mapping, Berame said, each barangay will find out their vulnerabilities and come up with plans. They hope to finish the hazard mapping within the year.

Next week, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will conduct a training seminar for officials and employees of the City and the barangays on disaster preparedness.

The MMDA was among the agencies that sent disaster responders to Leyte and Samar provinces immediately after super typhoon Yolanda struck.

Berame said the seminar will help the City find out what equipment it needs to buy to prepare for disasters.

Mandaue City

In Mandaue City, each of the 27 barangays has a DRRM council but only one has submitted the required five-year comprehensive disaster plan as of last Wednesday.

Former Tabok barangay captain Felix Suico, head of the City DRRM council, said only Barangay Canduman has submitted its comprehensive disaster plan for 2013 to 2017.

Suico, in an interview with Sun.Star Cebu, said the plan is required before the barangays can spend their DRRM funds.

The Commission on Audit, he pointed out, disallows disaster-related expenses by the barangays that lack comprehensive disaster plans.

Each of the barangays, however, already has trained disaster responders.

Last year, the Department of Interior and Local Government, with the help of the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation and the Bureau of Fire Protection, trained 80 to 100 disaster responders from every barangay in Mandaue.

“This year, we will only refresh them on what they learned from last year’s training,” Suico said.

The trainings were conducted from February to September last year, with volunteers, barangay officials and employees learning skills in first aid, firefighting, communication and logistics, among others.

The trained disaster responders become members of the Barangay Disaster Brigade.

Talisay City

While Talisay City’s barangays are aware that they need to come up with their DRRM plans, officials admitted that budget constraints often stop them short in implementing those plans.

Barangay Bulacao Captain Raul Cabanero revealed that while majority of the city’s villages already formed their own DRRM committees, only 60 percent are truly prepared for a calamity. Cabanero serves as the city’s Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) president.

Talisay City has 22 barangays.

After the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) ordered all barangays nationwide to come up with their own DRRM plans, Cabanero said he and other village chiefs immediately responded.

But majority of the barangays often seek aid from the City Government, particularly for relief and rescue operations, he said.

Vince Monterde, Talisay City’s public information officer and local DRMM officer, said that just this month, the local DILG has ordered all barangays to reactivate their DRRM councils.

Majority of the city’s barangays have evacuation centers, but there are some barangays who have put up evacuation centers within disaster-prone areas, Monterde said.

And while most of the city’s barangays cooperate in implementing disaster drills, he added, their constituents are often unaware of what they need to do when it comes to actual emergencies. (FMG/RVC/RSB/JKV of Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 13, 2014.

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