Bring disaster preparedness down to communities – DILG exec

Rambo Talabong

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Bring disaster preparedness down to communities – DILG exec
DILG undersecretary Austere Panadero says it is crucial to bring preparation down to the community and family levels

MANILA, Philippines— Disaster preparedness needs to be brought down to the community level.

Austere Panadero, undersecretary at the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), aired this sentiment on Saturday, July 8, at the Agos Summit on Disaster Preparedness. Panadero said the problem stems from changes in leadership in local government units (LGUs) – when disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) officers, for example, come and go depending on the mayor. (READ: The role of LGUs, local councils during disasters)

May problema tayo sa LGU level. Every 3 years nagpapalit ng leadership, at sometimes kapag bago ang mayor, bago ang DRRM officer, and that’s why there are people who do not understand their job,” said Panadero. (We have a problem at the LGU level. Every 3 years, leadership changes, and sometimes when the mayor gets replaced, the DRRM officer comes with him. That’s why there are people who do not understand their job.)

Panadero pointed out that it questionable, for instance, that some LGUs seek help from national agencies just on the first day of a disaster.

As a solution, Panadero discussed Oplan Listo, the DILG’s capacity-development and disaster response program which initially involved giving the local government leaders manuals on how to respond to calamity so that they know what to do when disaster strikes.

Moving from the LGU level, Oplan Listo later extended down to the community and family level with manuals also tailored for civic groups and families.

Panadero emphasized that the expansion was because the preparation needs to go down to the family level and must not stay at the LGU level alone.

“At the end of the day it’s the behavior at the family level that leads to preparedness,” Panadero said.

Aside from this, even local governments have taken the initiative to provide disaster response frameworks that empower civic groups.

Cagayan experience

An example is Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba whose province faced Super Typhoon Haima (Lawin) in 2014.

There were only 5 casualties in the province—a low number considering it was a super typhoon.

He said owes the success from volunteer groups he called agkakaisa, who are their “first responders,” numbering today at 144,000 all over Cagayan. They mobilized to prepare for the super typhoon when its landfall was announced.

He then initiated a “neighbor and force evacuation” program where vulnerable people were asked to evacuate, and those with stable homes were asked to take in evacuees.

PREPARED. According to Cagayan governor Manuel Mamba, disaster preparedness needs to be instilled to communities. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Kasama dito ang mga simbahan na binuksan ang kanilang mga pinto maging sa mga kababayan na hindi kaanib sa kanilang relihiyon (Included are churches that opened their doors to their countrymen who are not part of their religion),” Manuel said in the Agos forum.

Ever since this happened, Mamba shared, they have also been fostering a culture of volunteerism by incentivizing local government units who have “people empowerment offices” that connect with the volunteer groups.

“Each barangay [gets] P300,000 provided that people empowerment offices are in place,” Mamba said.

As a final word of advice for fellow local government leaders, Mamba said: “I’d go down to the [community] level; the barangay is too huge already. Para sa akin they’re the more efficient partner for me, ever since I was a mayor (For me they are more efficient partners, ever since I was a mayor).” –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.