BY THIS time there should have already been an institutionalized masterplan on how local government units can face coronavirus (Covid-19) head on. Yet, sadly, what we see are cities and municipalities trying to solve problems as they surface on their own like blind men leading the blind.
Good if the set of local officials are seasoned public administrators because by then we can expect how they would create their own comprehensive disaster plan for Covid-19 before spending people’s money in millions into wrong interventions.
While it is true that Covid-19 is an unchartered territory, it would be wrong to think that a uniform response cannot be crafted at the national level.
What we see now is pretty much a repeat of Typhoon Yolanda back in 2013 where all LGUs were ill-equipped to manage the said disaster. It can be recalled that LGUs got paralyzed while waiting for the national government to be on top of the situation creating more damage in the waiting.
The thing was that after such big disaster, the national government was able to craft an effective and comprehensive disaster management plan that covered prevention, mitigation and quick response. They even have color codes and level warning when and where to evacuate while all other services automatically get activated as per category of the disaster. Since then, all LGUs are better prepared now indicating zero casualties when strong typhoons come their way.
Such experience reveals that the absorptive capacity of the local bureaucracy is actually good. Each LGU now has a command center with uniformed protocol and a working disaster council.
There is no reason now why we need to experience another Yolanda in our fight against Covid-19.
There are at least three lessons that we should have learned already from the Yolanda tragedy.
First is that we cannot leave the local governments solve this problem on their own. While there are advanced cities equipped with knowledge and skills, the general truth is that not all local officials are savvy with public administration when it comes to disaster management. Leaving them alone to do their thing would pretty much result to what we see now, waste of resources poured into wrong preventive and mitigating measures, some even triggering a bigger disaster to happen.
Second is that we need a masterplan before anything else. It was acceptable that we made measures to buy time in crafting a comprehensive disaster plan for Covid-19, but we are already on its second month and apparently, we are yet to see an institutionalized protocol. By this time, it should have already been clear on the grounds when can an LGU declare a lockdown and how is a lockdown carried out. As of this writing, it would seem like the decision still falls on the discretion of the local chief executive and so if the mayor is paranoid, he closes borders way too early while if the mayor is too relaxed then it might be too late before he calls a lockdown in his jurisdiction.
To further illustrate this institutionalization, let us take typhoon as a hazard as an example. All over the country, we all know that when signal number one is raised, all elementary classes are cancelled. We do not wait for the mayor to declare suspension of classes to secure the safety of our vulnerable young. That is an example of a well-defined protocol.
Third is to never put the blame on people. The reason why people behave the way they behave is because they do not know any better and the system itself is not ready. Everything thrown to them as of now are not even consistent and well thought of.
If the public knows how to behave during typhoons, then we can conclude that they are capable of abiding by rules. I mean who would want to die anyway? The bigger blame should be on the duty bearer, our government. If up to now, it would look like we are still at a loss, then we should man up before it’s too late.
First step, comprehensive Covid-19 disaster management plan. If you have no plan yet then you are planning to fail.