MANILA, Philippines – The law asks local government units to implement measures in order to prepare for disasters.
But how do you know if a local government unit is prepared or not?
According to interior and local government undersecretary Austere Panadero, “the complexity of preparedness for urban areas may be different from that of a coastal community.” He adds, however that “there should be minimum standards.”
This is the problem a recent workshop organized by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) sought to address.
The law creating the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) designates the Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government as the vice-chairperson for disaster preparedness.
The same law, however, puts local governments in the frontline when it comes to adopting and implementing measures for disaster preparedness, response, prevention and mitigation, and rehabilitation and recovery.
“The thing is, we don’t have a national standard. Kanya-kanya. This is what we’re trying to aim for,” Panadero said.
Around 50 representatives from various government agencies such as Office of Civil Defense (OCD), DILG and local governments were present during the event which was held at the Millenia Suites in Pasig City.
Evacuation centers, relief packs, rescue equipment
The activity focused on listing down everything that local governments need to do to prepare for disasters and then formulating minimum standards and requirements for each item.
For instance, Panadero said, “We (are supposed to) check if evacuation centers are ready; hence there should be evacuation centers. But what are the standards for evacuation centers? How many evacuation centers are needed relative to evacuation you need to evacuate?”
In the case of relief packs, he noted, there is a need to establish how much a local government unit needs to prepare. “Do you prepare for 100 % of your vulnerable population? For how many days?”
Other matters Panaderos raised included what rescue equipment are needed, how many would be enough and how to compute needed equipment and resources. Rescue equipment needed by coastal communities would not be the same as those needed for upland and urban areas, he points out.
This exercise is crucial, he said, because “If an LGU is not prepared, others may need to pitch in.”
Before getting down to work, participants sat through presentations on best practices from different parts of the country. Among the case studies of model local government units that were mentioned in the workshop were San Francisco town in Camotes Island, and the provinces of Nueva Ecija, and Albay.
For instance, Former mayor Alfredo Arquillano of San Francisco, Cebu discussed how a thriving purok system helped their town survive the ravages of Typhoon Yolanda.
The system played a key role, according to Arquillano because all that needs to be done have to be taught to communities. “By organizing, you establish the communication mechanism; now challenge was how to build trust; then you create relationships, change mindsets, paradigms.”
During the actual writeshop, the participants first determined different categories that they feel should be a priority for standardization. Answers were categorized into six areas:
- plans and structure;
- data requirements; and
- service delivery
Participants were then grouped into these categories in order to deliberate on the minimum standards for items under each category. After much discussion, the participants were asked to present their results to the whole group.
This activity will be succeeded by more workshops and the results will undergo a one-month validation.
The department, according to Panadero, wants to move to a direction where the public understands what the standards are. “So the public will understand; help those who need help; monitor if standards are being followed.”
At present, the department has a preparedness checklist which lists down things local governments need to do in order to prepare for various disasters.
Director Marivel Sacendoncillo of the Local Government Academy (LGA) – DILG in her closing remarks said that this activity requires a lot of passion. The big challenge, after the standards are drawn, she said is ensuring that they are followed.
“Nobody will do this for us. Lahat ng ito dapat tayo ang gagawa. Tayong mga Pilipino, dahil buhay natin ang nakataya,” she added.
(Nobody will do this for us. All of this should be done by us, Filipinos, because it’s our lives that are at stake here.) – with a report by Gwen de la Cruz /Rappler.com
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