Pama's advice to next NDRRMC chief? 'Coordination, teamwork'
MANILA, Philippines – Coordination and teamwork.
These two words summarize what would be the unsolicited advice of National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Executive Director Alexander Pama to his successor, Ricardo Jalad.
"Because not one person, not one organization can do it alone," Pama said during a Rappler Talk interview on Wednesday, June 29.
To date, Pama and Jalad already had at least 3 meetings together, and Pama said the incoming disaster management chief is already starting to learn the ropes of the agency.
"The guy is a strategic thinker…. The guy's head and the heart is in the right place. He listens, and he does things according to the book," Pama said of Jalad, a retired Army general he worked with in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Pama, who is stepping down on June 30 after more than two years on the job, said he will be leaving behind an institutionalized system and process that will continue to work even without him at the helm.
"Maybe the next guys that would be coming in – not only this administration but down the road – they can always just improve on it or even set it aside – it's their call. But I guess if you look back and look at the statistics – we do what we call disaster forensics – I think you cannot argue with statistics," he added.
Pama said the NDRRMC under his watch succeeded in minimizing the consequences of a disaster "to a certain extent."
Just look at the numbers: from about 295 disaster casualties in 2014, government recorded about 155 casualties in 2015.
"Not because of Pama. It's because of the cooperation of stakeholders... people within the organization, the [Office of Civil Defense], the NDRRMC, and the public at large," he explained.
Pama admitted, however, that saving a lot of lives is his proudest legacy.
There is more work that needs the attention of the next administration.
For instance, Pama said there is still a need to improve on one of the handicaps of the OCD, which is its structure, although the President has already approved a new organizational structure and the number of personnel within the agency already went up from 300 to 600.
"Even the positions now have been institutionalized, plantilla positions already. Before, almost everybody was on contractual basis.... You give people the right job, the right pay, and they will deliver. The challenge now is for the new team to push the envelope in so far as institutionalizing and professionalizing our organization."
But Pama said one of the most exciting things that happened under his leadership – and what he calls an accomplishment – is being able to bring scientists in and "agree on a lot of things."
"Me as the consequence manager, I cannot make risk-informed decisions on the basis of a cacophony of assessments. We were able to come together [and] physically and mentally agree that once a forecast and an assessment is done, everybody follows that, because it's also going to be their responsibility."
Pama will soon step down from the office he held for only 25 months, but he's proud of where the Philippines is now in the context of disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM).
"At this point...I would honestly say we have leveled up the way the Philippines does disaster risk reduction and management," he said, placing the country's disaster preparedness at a scale of "somewhere around or hovering around" 8, with 10 being the highest.
Beyond that, Pama also pointed out that the country's DRRM has been recognized a number of times internationally, with the Philippines bringing the issue to the international level, whether in Sendai, APEC, or the ASEAN.
"Maybe what we can do right now is internalize further not only for people in government and the private sector, but collectively let's look at disaster risk reduction already not only as something that we need to do as a way of life, but also as a philosophy of resilience for all Filiipinos."
As for climate change, Pama said it would be "a clear and present danger" if the country does not do anything about it.
"Even in our efforts right now, we're trying our best to mainstream climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Eventually, one of my other dreams is to have climate change and disaster risk reduction under one roof, literally and figuratively [because they are] two sides of the same coin," he added. – Rappler.com