DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 February) – If a disaster strikes your area today, is your local government unit capable of responding or will it be as unprepared as the cities of Cagayan and Iligan were during typhoon Sendong?
Does your LGU have a functioning Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (DRMMC) as mandated by RA 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010?
Next month, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) will introduce the Seal of Disaster Preparedness (SDP) for provinces, cities and municipalities, “to scale up performance in the context of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Framework.”
Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo could not cite a specific number when asked last Thursday about how many LGUs nationwide have functioning DRRMCs. He said it is “probably more” than 50 per cent.
But he acknowledged the need to look into how many LGUs have functioning DRRMCs because “organizationally, all LGUs are supposed to have local DRMMCs.”
“The recent past will tell you that they are prepared. What happened in Talisayan, Negros, what happened in Dapitan, Zamboanga, I think demonstrates that there are now functioning local DRRMCs,” he said.
Benito Ramos, Executive Director of the National DRRMC, told MindaNews at the closing of the two-day Mindanao Summit on Disaster Preparedness and Geo-Hazard Awareness in Cagayan de Oro City on February 19 that out of 80 provinces in the country, “we have already 50 per cent, more than 50 per cent compliance, especially in the Eastern Seaboard.
“You will note that in the western seaboard, hindi masyado yan kasi hindi sila dinadaanan ng bagyo. Kaya dito sa lahat, you remember that even Bicol, Governor Joey Salceda, hanggang doon sa Davao may compliance yan. Yung western seaboard, kailangan bumagyo lang muna para maapektuhan sila,” he said.
“We are not prepared here”
In Mindanao, Ramos said there is “about 60%” compliance, especially in “Regions 11, 12, Caraga and Autonomous Region”
“Ito lang Region 10, medyo palpak at saka Region 9. Kung ready lang ito, hindi ganyan karami ang namatay eh… kasi (If it were ready, there would not have been so many dead. But there was) complacency No offense intended. We are not prepared here,” he said.
Region 10 or Northern Mindanao was badly battered by typhoon Sendong, particularly the cities of Cagayan and Iligan and Baungon town in Bukidnon.
Region 9 or Western Mindanao, comprises the three Zamboanga provinces and the cities therein, plus Isabela City in Basilan.
Region 11 or Southeastern Mindanao comprises the three Davao provinces and Compostela Valley and the cities therein; Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao comprises the provinces of . South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato and the cities therein plus Cotabato City).
Caraga region is composed of the two Agusans and two Surigaos and the cities therein while the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao comprises Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.
Robredo said they will be introducing the SDP next month.
The DILG website says the SDP is intended to “establish a benchmark information on disaster preparedness of local governments from which will evolve government interventions to influence a progressive capacity build-up among provinces, cities and municipalities, assess post-intervention disaster preparedness to determine performance gaps that need to be aggressively addressed, and incentivize institutionalized disaster preparedness as a proof of official recognition to the valuing by a local government of public safety and welfare.”
LGUs will be assessed on the basis of the following criteria: Leadership Structure and Guide to Action, Operational Readiness, and Innovative Practices.
“It’s also a checklist but it requires drills so it’s an assessment of the capacity of the LGU in terms of both the institutional and both technical, meaning we do an inventory of the equipment that they have,” Robredo said.
He said the DILG will be conducting a regional caravan to introduce SDP starting March.
According to the DILG website, the first conferment of SDPs will be in October.
“Like the Seal of Good Housekeeping, the SDP will be a carrot and stick proposition.. There will be some incentives for those who have obeyed the Seal aside from the public approval that you know you have a Seal of Good Housekeeping and Seal of Disaster Preparedness, then there is political value in it,” he said.
Robredo explained that the claim of some LGUs that they have no budget to set up the DRMMC office is “a poor excuse.”
“It’s like saying like you don’t have a budget for Engineer’s Office, the Treasurer’s Office, the Accounting Office. It’s a funding provided for by law. It should be part of the annual appropriations of of the LGUs. And the operating budget can be sourced out of the 5% calamity fund. By law, 70% of that can be used for disaster preparedness so there is no reason for LGUs to say that they don’t’ have the money to allocate for the setting up of the office,” he said.
Under Section 21 of the law, no less than 5% of the estimated revenue from regular sources shall be set aside as the local DRRM Fund to support disaster risk management activities such as, but not limited to, pre-disaster preparedness programs, including training, purchasing life-saving rescue equipment, supplies and medicines, for post-disaster activities and for the payment of premiums on calamity insurance.”
Seventy per cent of the local DRRM Fund is for disaster risk reduction while 30 per cent is for as Quick Response Fund or stand-by fund for relief and recovery programs.
“When you say you don’t have a budget for that (DRMMC) office, it simply means that people in your jurisdiction are not a priority. Now it speaks of the kind of priority of the LGU when it maintains that they don’t have budget for the local DRRMC. Remember, what is at stake here are not only properties but lives and if I am mayor or governor I’ll make sure that before anything else, I’ll put in the money for keeping my constituents safe,” said Robredo, who won several awards for good governance while he was mayor of Naga City. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)