Philippines to crowdsource Yolanda watchdog efforts

Paterno Esmaquel II
Philippines to crowdsource Yolanda watchdog efforts
This move should boost the confidence of international donors, Rehabilitation Undersecretary Lesley Cordero tells Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – If plans push through, citizens can use a new crowdsourcing tool – along with their smartphones and, of course, the eye of a watchdog – to monitor rehabilitation efforts for Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors.

The Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) is “looking at crowdsourcing” to keep a close tab on rehabilitation efforts, Rehabilitation Undersecretary Lesley Cordero told Rappler.

She said this is part of the OPARR’s Electronic Management Platform: Accountability and Transparency Hub for Yolanda (Empathy), for which the OPARR signed 3 memoranda of agreement (MOA) on Saturday, May 24.

In an interview, Cordero cited as example a hypothetical promise by the public works department. If the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) “promised to deliver x number of bridges, x number of school buildings, and then implementation or construction will start in June.” And if by July, she continued, citizens see no progress, “people can take pictures of the area and say, ‘This is the place now. Why don’t we see the bridges when you have mentioned that by June, you should have started construction already?’”

BIG CHALLENGE. Rehabilitation Undersecretary Lesley Cordero joins Panfilo Lacson in rebuilding areas hit by Yolanda. File photo courtesy of the Philippine Commission on Women

Cordero said this information will be posted on a website to be built by the OPARR, an agency that has no budget of its own – much to the frustration of its head, Panfilo Lacson – and acts as a coordinator. (READ: ‘Uncooperative’ officials derailing Yolanda rehab?)

To make donors confident

Is the government shooting itself in the foot by doing this?

Not really, Cordero said, because “in terms of transparency, we’ve always made sure that in proceeding, in moving forward, you would have confidence from the donors.”

For this, the OPARR said it signed one MOA with the Future Fully Advanced Realities in Media (FARM) Group, a Canadian-Taiwan-led radio and communication equipment provider and dealer.

In a statement, the OPARR said the company “will provide usufruct rights, or use rights, over 4 mobile trunked eLTE broadband systems which will link OPARR to the Yolanda corridor in order to monitor live activities related to rehabilitation and recovery.”

The two other MOAs involve a weather tracking system and an emergency alarm system.

Rehabilitation Secretary Lacson said his office’s vision “is for the system to outlive OPARR,” which is not the permanent disaster agency that experts have been urging the government to build. (READ: 6 months after Yolanda: ‘We are failing’)

“This is also part of our goal to improve transparency and accountability. Beyond disasters, Empathy is a system that can also monitor government projects. For now it will track live activities and projects related to the rehabilitation of the Yolanda corridor. But eventually, this same sytem can be used by the public to monitor government projects around the country,” Lacson said.

Transparency, after all, is key to receiving foreign aid, said Lacson’s Indonesian counterpart, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, who successfully rebuilt Aceh and Nias after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. –


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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at