In keeping with the spirit of the Christmas season, I shall devote my three columns in December on uplifting articles that would hopefully warm the hearts of the readers.
There are positive developments in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda that devastated the Visayas in northern Leyte, eastern Samar, northern Cebu and northern Panay Island. This is about the business sector and the nongovernment organizations (NGOs) coordinating their efforts to achieve synergy in disaster relief and rehabilitation.
As president of our Pilipinas Sandiwa Heritage Foundation Inc. (PSHFI), I have sent a congratulatory letter to Mr. Manuel V. Pangilinan (MVP) for the private-sector initiative on disaster management that has been formally incorporated with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF).
As chairman of PLDT and the Metro Pacific Investment Corp., MVP co-chairs the PDRF together with Ayala Corp. Chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel and Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle. Former PLDT and Smart Foundation president Rene “Butch” Meily is the president of the PDRF.
It was, indeed, “a historic day,” as PDRF President Butch Meily said, for the country’s top conglomerates and major business groups to get together and form the first private-sector disaster response. It is an excellent idea to include the NGOs and other foundations to consolidate the efforts of the private sector in disaster management.
Over the past years, the companies under the MVP group have been most active responding to calamities in our country from the earthquake in Bohol and Cebu last October to the devastation of Super Typhoon Yolanda in Leyte and Samar last November. Thus, it did not come as a surprise that Mr. Manny Pangilinan saw the need to take the lead in organizing the efforts of the business sector and the NGOs for greater efficacy.
MVP has recognized with perspicacity that “the private sector has an important role to play in making our country more resilient” after the devastation of each calamity. As the Filipino people and foreigners alike have seen, the national government has not been exactly effective in disaster search, rescue, relief and rehabilitation. It has always been the private sector—that includes the NGOs—that fills in the great gap.
Anent Super Typhoon Yolanda, the PDRF has identified five key areas needed for the recovery: shelter, livelihood, education, environment and on sanitation and health. PDRF President Butch Meily said that they have “decided to work together, share information and resources and work together for the future (of our country).” Well said.
I have been an advocate of institutionalizing emergency management in our government for natural disasters over the past five years. This has been formalized with the advocacy of our foundation in the past three years (2011 to 2013) for the government to create the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA). The proposed body will be similar to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the United States.
Agency run by professionals
It is about time—actually, long overdue—that the Philippines finally have a national government agency run by qualified disaster management professionals. For the longest time, our country and people have been victims of an ad-hoc body called the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) that was created 35 years ago in June 1978 by P.D. 1566 during the Marcos regime.
After the Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, no less than Secretary of Defense Gilbert Teodoro Jr., in his concurrent capacity as NDCC chairman, revealed that his office has no powers—except coordination—and no adequate resources to attend to the more than 20 typhoons and other calamities that visit our country. It was a shocking revelation!
President Gloria Arroyo responded with the creation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) created by RA 10121 on May 27, 2010. (It was the last law passed by the Arroyo administration.) However, the NDRRMC suffers the same flaw as the old NDCC: the secretary of Defense—usually a retired general—automatically becomes the NDRRMC regardless of his qualifications.
The fatal flaw of having the secretary of Defense as ex-officio chairman is that the executive director of NDRRMC is appointed based on his recommendation. Hence, a retired military general who becomes secretary of the Department of National Defense (DND) would most likely recommend another jobless retired general as Office of Civil Defense (OCD) chief with the rank of undersecretary.
The above situation happened with former PSG and Army chief Voltaire Gazmin being appointed by President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd as DND secretary and the former recommending retired army general Eduardo del Rosario as NRDDMC executive secretary. Their respective lamentable performances with Super Typhoon Yolanda would speak eloquently for themselves.
Together with the concerned citizenry, the newly organized PDRF may want to also get involved with the clamor to change the useless NDRCC to the NEMA, which we are proposing to be created as soon as possible. Our country and people cannot wait for another major catastrophe next year with the same nonperforming NDRRMC at the helm of the national government’s disaster management.
As Rigoberto Tiglao and I have written in both our columns in The Manila Times, President B. S. Aquino 3rd has not even given the P1-billion revolving fund, as provided for in Section 23 of RA 10121. Mr. Aquino has only given P100 million, the equivalent of 10 percent of prescribed P1 billion each year, and the same amount given to the old NDCC.
The other positive side of what happened with Super Typhoon Yolanda is that it rekindled the spirit of volunteerism and philanthropy in the Philippines. Thousands of Filipinos, including our own children, have helped in the relief operations. Likewise, myriad of Filipinos (and foreigners alike) have demonstrated charity with their contributions in cash and/or in kind for the victims of Yolanda.
The older brother of my wife, Alexander “Dado” Jesena, died of a heart attack in Iloilo after days of distributing relief goods to the typhoon victims in northern Iloilo. I dedicate this article in his memory and honor. Dado is now at peace with the Good Lord.
Rick B. Ramos at firstname.lastname@example.org