LGU contingency plans should be tested, regularly updated – DILG

Aika Rey
Of the 17 LGUs in the NCR only Pasig and Marikina have approved contingency plans for earthquakes and flooding.

CONSTANTLY UPDATING. LGUs in the National Capital Region constantly update their contingency plan whenever new data on hazards come out. Graphic by Alejandro Edoria/Rappler

(Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story showed that only 8 of the 17 local government units (LGUs) in the National Capital Region, have disaster contingency plans. The DILG have since released an updated list showing that 16 LGUs have either partially or completely complied.)

MANILA, Philippines — As a country prone to various natural disasters, is your local government prepared for such adversity?

Of the 17 local government units in the National Capital Region (NCR) only Pasig and Marikina have approved contingency plans for earthquakes and flooding.

The other 14 local government units, namely: Quezon City, Mandaluyong, San Juan, Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela, Makati, Manila, Pasay, Parañaque, Muntinlupa, Taguig and Pateros, have submitted draft contingency plans to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) but are in the process of having drafts plans reviewed and approved.

Las Piñas City, on the other hand, is currently undergoing writeshops toward drafting such a plan.

This might seem like dereliction of duty on the part of local government leaders, but it’s not entirely as simple as that, experts in disaster management point out. Contingency plans need to be constantly updated with each new data released, they say, so much so that many local governments are unable to make it to the point where original drafts actually reach approved status.

Detailed plans

The Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 or Republic Act No. 10121, mandates LGUs to facilitate and support risk assessment and contingency planning at the local level.

Contingency plans are supposed to provide the kind of response, set of equipments and protocols to be used during a certain disaster, depending on the hazard be it earthquakes, floods, and storms, among others.

The process of complying with the requirements of this mandate, however, is a tedious one.

“Contingency plans are a very specific plans. They are very tedious to write,” explains Dino Lagos, local government officer at the DILG.

Contingency plans drafted during writeshops, according to Lagos, are ultimately subject for approval because writeshop participants are typically not the heads of agencies.

“MGB, PAGASA give inputs until sectoral plans are refined and become part of the contingency plan,” Lagos adds.

LGU

Submitted Contingency Plans

for Specific Hazards

 

Flood

Earthquake

     

Quezon City

June 15, 2015

June 15, 2015

Pasig City

Aug. 12, 2013

August 12, 2013

Marikina City

January 24, 2014

November 7, 2014

Mandaluyong City

Feb. 25, 2014

March 4, 2014

San Juan City

January 24, 2014

January 24, 2014

Caloocan City

April 8, 2014

April 8, 2014

Malabon City

June 10, 2015

June 10, 2015

Navotas City

March 17, 2014

February 14, 2014

Valenzuela City

February 25, 2014

February 25, 2014

Makati City

 

October 4, 2014

City of Manila

June 18, 2015

December 5, 2014

Pasay City

January 24, 2014

October 28, 2014

Las Piñas City

Writeshop on June 22-24, 2015

Parañaque City

March 31, 2014

March 31, 2014

Muntinlupa City

June 10, 2015

June 10, 2015

Taguig City

January 27, 2014

November 20, 2014

Mun. of Pateros

January 24, 2014

November 1, 2014

 

Even before RA 10121 was enacted, Lagos said, many LGUs already have such plans because of the Contingency Planning Manual during the time of OCD Administrator Glenn Rabonza.

Needs constant updating

With each new data released, however, plans need to be updated. When Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS) was released in 2013, the NCR cities were required to once again update their respective plans.

“They have to rewrite what they have kasi mas bago na ang impormasyon.” (They had to rewrite because of the new information.)

When the West Valley Fault Atlas was released, this meant another round of editing to the already submitted plans.

“This is why there are LGUs who have not gotten to the point of approving a final contingency plan at the local council level,” Lagos said.  In effect, he said, it would seem like no action was done when, when in fact, the LGUs spent countless hours doing things leading to that – from creating their own GIS-based hazard maps up to writing their sectoral plans.

It does not help that the law requires approval of the plan by the local council. Contingency plans eventually require a budgets, which also goes through the same approval process.

“Anything that..involves release (of) money requires an ordinance,” Lagos said.

This can be a hindrance because, barring a few exceptions, Allan Tabell, director of the DILG’s Central Office Disaster Information Center (DILG-Codix) points out that not many politicians are experts in disaster management. This, he said, is precisely why DILG has launched Operation Listo which prescribes minimum levels of preparedness for LGUs.

June 30 ultimatum

In 2013, the DILG gave LGUs an “ultimatum” – comply with the law by June 30, 2015, or face possible “denunciation” by the national government, and appropriate sanctions under the law.

Pagkatapos ng June 30 at wala pa rin ‘yang plan, maniningil na kami (After June 30 and the LGUs have not submitted a plan, we will have to hold them accountable) If we have to denounce them, we shall do it,” Brion said.

Local officials should be held responsible if damage to life and property becomes insurmountable, Brion told Rappler.

“We will cite them for dereliction of duties kasi may batas eh. At ‘pag may nangyaring disaster at na-kompromiso ang buhay at properties, malaki ang pananagutan ng local officials,” he said.

(We will cite them for dereliction of duties because there is a law. If a disaster happens and life and properties would be compromised, the local officials would be held primarily accountable.)

Brion added: “Meron ng DRRM plan eh, kaya lang yung refinements na hinihingi namin. We have to see it. ‘Yang contingency plan naghihigpit kami diyan.”

(There is a DRRM plan already, but all we are asking from them are the refinements. We have to see it. We will be very strict with the contingency plan.)

Brion says it is important for LGUs to make sure they are prepared and equipped with the right knowledge and skills, and working equipment before tragedy strikes. The contingency plan is supposed to provide  LGUs such crucial information.

(Brion has since been reassigned from the NCR post and has taken on the post of Director of Region IV-A last May 21, 2015.)

Simulate, assess, improve

The local government department, however, appears to have softened its stance on the matter. Despite the fact that many draft plans have not been approved yet, there have been improvements in compliance and quality of plans among cities in the metropolis since 2013, Tabell acknowledges.

A bigger concern, he said, are LGUs outside the NCR as there are regions that have a lot of catching up to do.

After they are drafted and approved, contingency plans need to be tested through simulation exercises, Tabell told Rappler. “As a result of the assessment of these simulation exercises, gaps in the plans can be identified, plans can be improved.”

Once the plans are proven effective, Tabell said stakeholders need to be informed of those and they should take part  in succeeding exercises or drills so they know what to do and where to go when disasters strike.

Local disaster funds

Apart from having contingency plans, local governments also need to ensure proper utilization of their local disaster funds.

According to the Philippine DRRM Act of 2010, local governments are supposed to set aside at least 5% of their estimated revenue from regular sources for their disaster management councils. (Read: How do you use your local disaster funds?)

Many local governments focus their efforts on funding response capabilities by buying rescue equipment and rescue teams.

Of the local disaster management fund, however, only 30% shall be allocated as Quick Response Fund, while 70% would be used for pre-disaster preparedness and mitigation measures.

During the onset of a disaster, the QRF serves as a standby fund for relief and recovery programs.

DISASTER FUNDS. Local DRRM Funds in NCR for 2014. Data from DILG-NCR.

Pasig City complies with this requirement by allocating big chunk of its local disaster funds to the rehabilitation of drainages, pumping stations, and declogging canals in preparation for the typhoon season. In 2014, Pasig City’s disaster management office spent P7,654,876.00 for this purpose.

The city also spends a lot on training its disaster managers and barangay leaders.

Pasig City DRRMO head Ritchie Van Angeles explains that while improving response capability is essential, funds are actually better spent when used for prevention.

‘Pag response kasi, ibig sabihin may naaksidente ka na doon. Meron ka nang i-re-rescue; buhay ‘yun, walang katumbas.” Angeles said.

(When you say “response,” that means someone already figured in an accident. There is somebody to rescue; it involves someone’s life. That’s irreplaceable.)

Pasig City has learned the importance of preparedness the hard way. It was one of the most affected cities in NCR when Typhoon Ondoy (international name Ketsana) ravaged the country in 2009. (Read: Pasig City: Learning from Ondoy, ready for the rain)

The city is now a recognized leader in disaster preparedness.

Angeles explains the need to formulate the contingency plan before allocating funds: “Gumagastos kami na i-solve ang problema kasi we all experienced Ondoy. We’re really focused on improving capacities kasi dito kami nakatira eh. Dito na kami lumaki. Kaya gusto naming lampasan ang Ondoy.

(We are utilizing our funds to solve our problems because we all experienced Ondoy. We’re really focused on improving our capacities because this is where we live. This is where we grew up. That is why we want to move on from Ondoy.)

Pasig is one of the better performing local governments. But much remains to be done to get other local governments to reach the same level of preparedness.

Here, public scrutiny of the efforts of their respective LGUs plays a crucial role.

It is important for stakeholders to know the resources available to their local governments for disaster mitigation and response, says Brion.

“What is important is that we know the resources that are available within and in each and every city. We know what the private sector has and can contribute; we know that NGOs’ and volunteer groups’ help can also be employed,” said Brion. – Rappler.com

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.