Gibo: Disaster not a place for clashing egos

Former Defense Secretary Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro Jr. called for improved coordination among agencies, and a stop to migration to urban areas to help the Philippines brace for disasters.

Teodoro assessed disaster risk reduction efforts as a panelist at the Tenth Jaime V. Ongpin Annual Memorial Lecture on Public Service in Business and Government. He reacted to the lecture of Manila Observatory Executive Director Ma. Antonia Yulo Loyzaga on disaster risk and preparedness. The event was held on Oct. 18, Tuesday, at the Ateneo Professional Schools in Makati.

Teodoro, former chairman of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, said synergy between the national and local government, and public and private sectors is crucial to disaster preparedness and mitigation.

“A disaster is not a place for clashing egos. It is an occasion for humility. Even national pride is perhaps misplaced when it comes to the context of a disaster.”

Former NDCC Chairman Gilberto Teodoro Jr. was a panelist at the JVO lecture on disaster preparedness

Teodoro oversaw efforts to respond to storms Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009. Incidentally, he was then also running for president in 2010.

Asked if he experienced clashing egos, Teodoro said, “Minsan may competition angagencies, merong issues of control. Sometimes ang pulitika nakahalo din dahil siyempre unahan din sa pagre-relief lalo na pag malapit ang eleksyon. Pero natutunan natin not only locally pero internationally na walang bansa pag malaki ang disaster kaya niya mag-isa.”(Sometimes there is competition among agencies, there are issues of control. Sometimes, politics comes into play because politicians compete to do relief work, especially when elections draw near. But we learn not only locally but also internationally that no nation can handle a major disaster by itself.)

After withdrawing into private life following his loss in the election, Teodoro has been participating in public fora like those on the West Philippine Sea, entrepreneurship, and law and public service.

“I’m really in the private sector now but the Jaime V. Ongpin Foundation and Toni Loyzaga, and Chairman Bobby Romulo being very close (to me), almost like family, I can’t say no. That’s the extent of my public participation now,” he told Rappler. 

‘Stumbling block to PPP’

Teodoro said during Ondoy, government envisioned a private-public sector commission composed of businessmen who can pitch into disaster response efforts. He likened this to the Public Private Partnership (PPP) program of the Aquino administration.

“Our normal conception of PPP is an infrastructure project … but I think the essence of PPP is a private citizens’ participation for the benefit of the community.”

Teodoro however said that the Ethics Law and Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act hamper the private sector’s participation. “Why? Because even if you accept an honorary position in government, you are subjected to government rules and regulations and that is a big stumbling block to private sector participation in governance. The longer those prohibitions remain, the wider the gap between the private sector and public sector comes in.”

Former NDCC Chairman and Defense Sec. Gilberto Teodoro Jr. is a panelist at the JVO lecture.

Stop the migration

Teodoro said what struck him about Loyzaga’s lecture was her observation that poverty in the Philippines is shifting downwards to Mindanao. He said this will cause inverse migration from the south to the north, increasing the vulnerability of communities in the north to disasters. “Thus the need to address the poverty situation in areas in the south.”

Teodoro said that to be effective, government’s program must provide people with opportunities in localities where migration occurs.

“The practical thing to do is to start from square one: stop the migration. An interesting thing is to find out what is the demographics of the informal settlers. It is not only marginalized people but people who earn salaries, they are employed. They don’t have a place to stay in Manila, they pay rent. The provider of the dwelling also pays some form of rent to someone else, I don’t want to mention and I wouldn’t want to know.”

Youth is political voice of future

Teodoro called on government to focus on long-term planning, as Loyzaga pointed out that Mindanao will be drying up in 30 to 50 years. He said this requires government to build heavy infrastructure projects like water catchments, dams, the Central Mindanao river basin flood control and irrigation project. “These projects don’t take a fortnight to do but a long period of time.”

“The face of disasters that the country is facing is changing and that gives us the imperative to be able to anticipate the different kinds of disasters that may affect our country.”

Teodoro said part of long term efforts is to educate the youth on disaster risk reduction and climate change. “They will be the political voice of the future and a lot of these initiatives have difficulty going through because of misinformation of the public and the lack of political will because of that.”