Editorial: This election, save lives-A A +A
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
THE story often told about barangay elections is that these are proxy fights between politicians higher in the pecking order. Barangay chiefs, or so the cynical view goes, are chosen for their ability to win votes for their political bosses in the next election, rather than their ability to serve constituents.
But that story can change, if voters set performance standards for barangay officials and define what issues candidates should address. Widespread flooding in two Negros Oriental communities and storm surges that drove residents from their homes on Talisay City’s coast this past weekend point to one urgent issue.
How prepared are barangays to respond to disasters? Proponents of a leaner government can make a strong case for eliminating barangays as one layer of official authority.
They argue that most services barangays provide, like safety patrols and garbage collection, can be performed by the police and the City Government, or outsourced to a private contractor.
Disasters are where barangay officials potentially can make the most difference. As the level of government closest to their constituents, they are well positioned to assess what risks each community needs to prepare for and to devise an effective early warning system.
Local officials who have a plan for making communities resilient are an urgent need in our part of the world. In the last 30 years, The World Bank publication “Strong, Safe and Resilient” reports, 40 percent of all floods worldwide happened in East Asia and the Pacific. By 2025, the same report projects, as many as 410 million urban Asians could face the risk of urban flooding.
We have less than three weeks to go until the barangay election, just barely enough time to ask the candidates what their plans are for disaster risk reduction. Candidates capable of a clear-eyed assessment of the risks and who possess a track record for making tough, important decisions: they are the people we need.
Of course, without much effort on our part, this barangay election could be little more than spadework for candidates with an eye on 2016. But if we put disaster preparedness and resilience on the agenda, we may yet make the exercise more meaningful. We may even save some lives.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 09, 2013.