“Where is the role of the people in the picture?”
First of two parts
Second part: Prepping the people
By DEE AYROSO
Although the government is now prepared with more equipment and vehicles, many local government unit (LGU) officials still have no appreciation of the concept of disaster risk reduction and management, said the Citizens’ Disaster Response Center (CDRC).
In Quezon City, as early as 2012, Mayor Herbert Bautista has formed 10-member Barangay Emergency Response Teams (BERT), equipped with vehicles, to assist in any disaster and health emergencies in the villages.
Ma. Elna Corazon Jazmines, CDRC training department coordinator, however, said that they recently asked officials of West Triangle village in Quezon City, where CDRC is based, and learned that they did not yet have any disaster plan.
The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has been conducting earthquake drills and mock evacuation drills, to prepare its forces to respond when The Big One hits. The agency has also positioned at least 22 container vans equipped with earthquake rescue kits in different parts of the metropolis.
The CDRC officers said it’s good to have equipment and vehicles, but preparation should not stop there. It’s the people’s preparedness that matters most, they said.
“The community effort and participation is not in the picture,” said Carlos Padolina, CDRC deputy executive director.
The MMDA may have the equipment, the barangays may have the vehicles, but the picture is not complete, Jazmines said.
“What good will the vehicles be if they don’t know where to go? Can it accommodate all the people in the barangay?” said Padolina. “Where is the role of the people in the picture?”
He added that in the case of a disaster with the scale of devastation as Yolanda’s (Haiyan), even the first-responders will be affected and may not be able to perform their duties immediately.
Padolina said it should be clear to the community where they will bring people, who will all be going out of their homes when the quake hits.
“People get their information only from TV, but, the sad thing is, when it comes to constant information to the community, there is none,” Padolina said.
Disaster-preparedness cannot be solely done by government, but it should provide venue for people to take part, Padolina said.
Under the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, or Republic Act 10121, the local government should initiate the formation of a disaster risk reduction management council (DRRMC), composed of the four key players in disaster-preparedness: the government, civil society organization, people’s organization and private sector.
The formation is tasked to draft, implement, and monitor plans, policies and activities.
The DRRMC should put up a disaster management office, for the day-to-day implementation and monitoring of plans, giving trainings and capability-building. There are cases when, due to lack of funds, the DRRMC also functions as the disaster management office. This, however, gives the condition for corruption, Padolina said.
“Having no budget is not an excuse. The question is: what is the government’s priority? Where does it put its money?” he said.
In most cases, LGUs are willing to release big funds for construction projects, but not for food and venue for disaster-preparedness trainings, which require much less funds.
Padolina said there are even LGUs who are not aware of RA 10121, let alone form a functioning DRRMC.
Maria Elena Serato, CDRC research and public information officer, said they met officials in a village in Samar who did not know of RA 10121. “They even asked us for an orientation,” she said.
Prepared by experience
Albay province is an exception, he said, as Gov. Joey Salceda has the formation in place at all levels. Albay is home to Mayon, an active volcano, and is also the gateway for typhoons, Padolina said.
He also cited best practices in disaster-preparedness by Guinsaugon, Leyte which had a killer landslide in 2006, and Dagupan, which is prone to flooding, and experienced liquefaction after the 1991 earthquake.
“Their experience with disasters has pushed them to be prepared,” he said. “It means, it can be done.”