LGUs saving calamity funds for Christmas bonus?

Dr. Minda Morante told MindaNews in an interview Saturday they are coordinating with the Department of Interior and Local Government to check if reports reaching them are true.

Morante could not cite specific local government units but she said the practice is very possible as there are LGUs that spent no calamity funds because their communities did not experience calamities within the budget year.

She said it is, however, legal to divert the unexpended funds.

Morante spoke in the sidelines of the Seminar on Disaster Management for Local Tri-media in Davao City, part of slated activities of the month long National Disaster Consciousness Month 2007 at the PIA regional office Saturday.

She said they are also checking on LGUs that seek assistance from their provincial governments for release of calamity funds so they could not use their own.

Morante is batting for LGUs to be more proactive and take the initiative of preparing for calamities. She said a reactive mindset that looks at responding only to calamities is discouraged in a period when both natural and man-made calamities threaten the safety of the public.

She said it is good that there are unexpended calamity funds, mandated at 5 percent of the annual local budget, because it shows communities were spared of disasters.

"But LGUs should already prepare for their annual disaster management plan to anticipate tools and funds needed in the coming year," she said.

She said if there are no disasters for now, the LGUs should take initiative in preparing pre-disaster programs.

Morante stressed the RDCC has echoed calls for the local disaster coordinating councils from the provincial down to city and town levels to allot budget for disaster consequence reduction measures such as hazard mapping.

"We are living with risk but we can manage consequences," she said.

She could not assure, however, if the LDCCs have activated mechanisms for the four aspects of disaster management, namely, mitigation, preparedness, response, and reduction. "I can vouch only for the provincial DCCs," she said.

Morante said local governments need to invest in this concern to avoid greater damage.

She said the level of preparation should not be limited to the government sector only but also to a wider mass of groups.

She said the citizens also has a big stake in the concern because they are at the frontline of these possible disasters and are at the receiving end of damage.

She said the citizens should help countercheck their local government if disaster preparedness tools and mechanisms are in place.

"Residents should check if their local leaders have activated the local disaster coordinating council, how often do they meet, and if they have a disaster management plan," she said.

She said another countercheck point is trainings on rescue operations, public disaster drills, and regular information campaign.

Morante said one way to effectively check is if LDCCs have an operations center, if it has detailed personnel, if they are trained, and if they are conducting public information activities.

She said while disaster management requires wide ranging coordination, local action is imperative.

Flooding and flood induced calamities is the major concern of the RDCC in S. Mindanao, especially in coastal towns and along river lines. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)