First of two parts
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 08 November) – The nearly two-hour briefing for President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on the impact of Typhoon Paeng on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), livestreamed from the 6th Infantry Division in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao on November 1, gave the public a preview into the many challenges in a region in transition to what would be an elected 80-member Bangsamoro Parliament in 2025, a province in transition from Maguindanao into the divided Maguindanao del Norte and del Sur, and a nation in transition, with the four-month Marcos administration obviously still trying to understand its role vis-à-vis the autonomous region.
Marcos urged the BARMM and local government units (LGUs) under it to coordinate and conduct joint operations to effectively respond to disasters.
Although not on the direct path of Typhoon Paeng, the severe tropical storm triggered heavy rains, flooding and landslides on October 27 and 28 in the BARMM’s Cotabato City, Maguindanao del Norte, Maguindanao del Sur, Jolo among others. Paeng caused death, destruction and displacements in the worst disaster to have hit the three-year old BARMM, an autonomous region led by Moro revolutionaries who signed peace agreements with the national government.
“I noticed na ang BARMM at saka yung LGU, wala kayong joint operations.
You have to have joint operations to maximize all of your assets dahil … there is only so much kaya kailangan nakafocus (we need to focus),” Marcos said, adding that in some areas, BARMM has more people while in other areas, the LGUs have more “so i-join ninyo yung forces ninyo para ma-maximize natin. Kailangan gandahin natin ang coordination (join your forces to maximize the effort. We must improve coordination), Marcos said in the briefing held after an aerial inspection of the destruction left behind by the typhoon.
“Overall I think we did alright,” Marcos said at the end of the nearly two-hour long briefing. But he stressed, “dapat next time marami na tayong nakikitang joint operations between the LGU and BARMM. Otherwise hindi talaga tayo magiging efficient. We have to find a way.”
The lack of coordination was evident in the reports presented by the regional government and the provincial government.
The provincial numbers presented by Governor Bai Mariam Sangki Mangudadatu as of 6 a.m. on October 31, were much higher (61dead, 40 injured, 17 missing; and 622,305 residents in evacuation centers, according to her), than the regional numbers presented by BARMM Local Governments Minister Naguib Sinarimbo, on the affected areas in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi as of 6 pm of October 31, (52 dead, 31 injured, 13 missing; and 22,115 residents remaining in evacuation centers).
At the national level, also as of 6 p.m. of October 31, Situation Report 8 of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) listed 53 dead, 40 injured, 22 missing in the BARMM, with zero or no one inside evacuation centers.
Learning and teaching moments
So many valuable learning and teaching moments for the national government, the BARMM and the LGUs were packed into that one-hour-and-forty-five minute briefing for Marcos.
If Marcos found coordination between the regional and provincial governments wanting, the same could be said between the national and regional governments.
That the national government is still trying to figure out its role in the autonomous region is evident in the questions Marcos asked.
To Social Welfare Secretary Erwin Tulfo, he asked: “What is the division of labor sa pag provide ng relief goods between the LGU, BARMM and DSWD? I assume that you are working jointly para ma-maximize ang ating ibibigay” (to maximize what we can give).
To the BARMM he asked: “Paano kami sa national government tutulong sa inyo kung di kami makapasok?” (How can we in the national government help you if you won’t allow us in?)
Tulfo replied that he had just talked with the Region 12 (Socsksargen) director and “we were only allowed to manage 28 evacuation centers per BARMM’s instructions. Of that 28 evacuation centers, only four na lang are open so that figure of 600,000 (inside evacuation centers) is very, very far from our figures.”
Earlier, Tulfo called on a DSWD 12 official when Marcos asked “how many people are left still in evacuation centers?” It was a question Marcos also asked of Mangudadatu: “lahat yan napunta sa evacuation center?” (all of them are in the evacuation centers?) “Yes, Sir. As of yesterday, number of persons sa iba’t-ibang evacuation centers,” she replied.
The BARMM’s record as of 6 p.m. on October 31 was that only 22,000 residents were in evacuation centers in the entire region.
Residents in areas affected by flooding usually return to their homes as soon as the floodwaters subside, except those whose houses were destroyed.
The DSWD 12 official’s response to the President’s question was “same record with Maguindanao, Sir, because we are dependent with Maguindanao.” When Marcos asked if the number 622,000 in the evacuation centers had not decreased, the official replied “some of those are household-based.”
Mangudadatu erred when she said ‘yes’ to Marcos’ question. In her Powerpoint presentation, the number 622,000 actually referred to affected individuals in the province, not the total number of residents in evacuation centers.
“Are there still evacuation centers in operation that you are not servicing?” Marcos asked Tulfo. Tulfo replied they are serving only four of 28. The President and Tulfo should have asked details from the BARMM’s Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD) which is the autonomous region’s equivalent of the DSWD. The predominantly male BARMM leadership on the other hand, should have brought Minister for Social Services and Development Raissa Jajurie to that briefing.
“Bakit hindi nakapasok ang DSWD?” (Why wasn’t DSWD in?), asked Marcos, who may have been fed reports that the BARMM shunned assistance from the national government.
Sinarimbo explained that BARMM has its own MSSD and that there was an agreement between MSSD and DSWD on who would manage which evacuation centers.
Sinarimbo explained that DSWD 12, which is under the national DSWD, has no field personnel in the BARMM so DSWD 12 “borrows” personnel assigned in different provinces in the region comprising Sarangani, South Cotabato, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudrarat, to deploy to the BARMM.
DSWD 12 was also busy attending to residents in their own region who were also displaced by floods and landslides.
MSSD and DSWD
SInarimbo explained that they had an agreement with the DSWD “para clear lang ho kung saan ang operation ng bawat isa. Nag co-coordinate talaga.”
The BARMM is unique among the country’s 18 regions as it is the lone autonomous region, is a product of a peace agreement and has a regional government led by a Chief Minister. It is the third autonomous region set-up in the predominantly Moro areas in the past four decades but the first to adopt a parliamentary system within a highly-centralized Presidential system of government.
Besides RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM which outlines the powers of the national government and the powers of the regional government, there is also RA 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 which provides for the protocols of disaster response from barangay to municipality or city, to province to regional and national.
Sinarimbo listed the resources available at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) as of 6 p.m. on October 31: 30,000 food items out of 99,036 and 7,565 non-food items out of 25,181.
He also presented their inventory of available resources for quick response as of October 31: the regional government had 227,053 food packs: MSSD’s 157,053, Bangsamoro READi’s (Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence) 30,000 and Project Tabang of the Office of the Chief Minister at 40,000.
He said the region still has PhP 1.09 billion from its Quick Response Fund.
The available resources at the EOC, the food pack inventory and the remaining QR fund showed that the BARMM, as of November 1, still had enough resources to respond to the needs of those affected by Paeng in the region so it did not seek augmentation from DSWD, a national government agency that was also busy responding to the needs of other regions affected by Paeng.
In its three-year history, the BARMM has not sought augmentation from the DSWD as it has resources to respond to disasters.
It was the provincial government of Maguindanao that directly sought assistance from the DSWD when it could actually seek assistance from the BARMM. The DSWD could have checked with the BARMM’s MSSD on Maguindanao’s request. BARMM on the other hand distributed relief goods in three ways. according to Sinarimbo, directly handed to the LGUs “if they provide us details of the displacement:” if they are not provided details, “we ask our people to go to the ground and do direct distribution;” and distribute to specific evacuation centers.
RA 10121 mandates LGUs, the first responders, to allocate “not less than five percent (5%) of the estimated revenue from regular sources” as calamity fund or what is now known as Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (LDRRMF) “to support disaster risk management activities.” Out of this fund, 30% shall be allocated as Quick Reaction Fund (QRF) “or stand-by fund for relief and recovery programs.”
RA 10121 also provides in Section 15, protocols on coordination: the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils (LDRRMCs) take the lead in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from the effects of any disaster based on the following criteria: the Barangay DRRMC if a barangay is affected, the city/municipal DRRMCs if two or more barangays are affected; the provincial DRRMCs if two or more cities/municipalities are affected; the regional DRRMC, if two or more provinces are affected; and the NDRRMC, if two more regions are affected.
Roads and bridges
On the repair of bridges and roads, Marcos asked: “Who’s going to do the repair?”
With or without an autonomous region, national highways and bridges are under the national government.
In the BARMM, national roads and bridges are handled by the Department of Public Works and Highways which has a Project Management Office (DPWH-PMO) tasked to attend to the BARMM and which is represented in the regional EOC, according to Sinarimbo.
To DPWH Secretary Manuel Bonoan, Marcos asked why the DPWH has no district office in the BARMM.
“I understand Mr. President that this has been the arrangement made when the BARMM was established,” Bonoan replied. Marcos said it would make things easier if there is a “district office designated to the BARMM area.”
The BARMM, however, has a Ministry of Public Works (MPW) that has two district offices in Maguindanao (located in what is now Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur) and deals with the DPWH-PMO regarding national roads and bridges.
The two bridges, for example, that were destroyed by the typhoon and cut off two vital links to the city — the Nituan Bridge in Parang, Maguindanao along the Narciso Ramos highway and the Labu-labu Bridge in Datu Hoffer town along the Isulan-Cotabato highway – are under the national government so MPW Minister Ed Guerra sought the assistance of the DPWH-PMO which also immediately deployed its personnel from DPWH 12. Repairs were immediately done and Nituan Bridge and Labu-labu Bridge are now passable to light vehicles.
RA 11054 lists down 55 powers of the Bangsamoro government, among them disaster risk reduction and management, humanitarian services and institutions, public works and infrastructure, water supply and services, flood control and irrigation systems.
RA 11054 also provides for a mechanism for both the national government and the Bangsamoro government to resolve issues they may encounter and this is through the Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGRB) “to coordinate and resolve issues on intergovernmental relations through regular consultation and continuing negotiation in a non- adversarial manner.”
The IGRB “shall exhaust all means to resolve issues before it” and unresolved issues shall be elevated to the President, through the Bangsamoro Chief Minister. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)
TOMORROW: BARMM in transition, Maguindanao in transition