• Presidentiables briefing: Disaster readiness

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    First of two parts

    Starting today till December, most Republic Service columns will cover major national issues for the next administration to address. Most presidentiables are still drafting platforms of government, as Senator Grace Poe and outgoing Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas have said. May this series help in formulating strategies and policies for national advancement.

    The articles shall draw from media reports as well as in-depth studies compiled by the Center for Strategy, Enterprise & Intelligence (CenSEI), which produces strategic research and analysis for consulting clients, media and online. Past CenSEI reports may be accessed at www.issuu.com or requested from report@censeisolutions.com.

    This writer is CenSEI’s Managing Director and was Secretary of the Cabinet (2002-08), Civil Service Commission Chairman (2008-09), and Presidential Spokesperson (2010). He was also Secretary of the Special National Public Reconstruction Commission, which worked on rehabilitation plans and funding for the 2009 Ondoy and Pepeng megafloods. He holds an M.S. in Public Policy and Management from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; and a Postgraduate Diploma in Strategy and Innovation from Oxford University’s Saïd Business School.

    This month articles cover two leading life-and-death concerns: disasters this week and crime next week. Both have seen unimpressive, even poor, performance under President Benigno Aquino 3rd. This and future reports will assess the current situation in each topic area, and recommend strategic priorities for coming years.

    Why the country lacks disaster readiness
    Calamity relief and recovery should have been much better since 2010, especially with the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act (PDRRM Act) passed a month before the Arroyo administration ended, based on the Strategic National Action Plan 2009-2019 (SNAP), also for DRRM, promulgated earlier that year.

    Yet as seen in major storms since 2010, disaster readiness and response have been sorely wanting. During Supertyphoon Yolanda in November 2013, no less than President Benigno Aquino 3rd announced on nationwide TV that dozens of vessels and aircraft and massive relief goods were in place before the storm. Yet it took several days before relief reached devastated Tacloban.

    Thus, in the 2014 World Risk Index, the Philippines ranked second in calamity risk, up from its perennial No. 3 placing. While it’s hard to change the country’s third-highest rating for exposure to destructive nature, much can be done to reduce vulnerability and susceptibility to risk, and to enhance coping and adaptive capacities, as Japan, Costa Rica and Chile, nations also exposed to catastrophic events, have done.

    That’s the aim in promulgating the PDRRM Act and the SNAP. They were drafted with substantial input from Philippine and international experts, academe, and development organizations. The law contained a broad range of policies, programs and projects to enhance disaster response, reduce risk, and mobilize agencies and resources to better protect endangered communities and help calamity areas recover faster.

    STORM COUNTRY Natural Disasters in the Philippines, 1900-2014
    STORM-COUNTRY20150811
    Source: “Assessment of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management at the Local Level”, Commission on Audit, 2014

    A key strategy under the disaster measure is the building up of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) under the Department of National Defense (DND) into a billion-peso calamity response agency similar to America’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The upgraded body, to be headed by an undersecretary-rank Administrator who shall also be Executive Director of the Cabinet-level NDRRM Council, is mandated to draft the National DRRM Plan and set up the NDRRM Operations Center to monitor and coordinate calamity operations.

    OCD would also promote risk reduction and capability building, especially among local government units, and is supposed to establish DRRM training institutes for LGUs and other entities. For these activities, OCD was due to get an initial budget of P1 billion, which it finally got in 2012, though that P1.22 billion dropped to P657 million in 2013. And the bulk of the money was for calamity response, leaving little funding for preparedness (more on this later).

    Over the past several months, the government and civil society organizations (CSOs) have been assessing the implementation of the PDRRM Act. This “sunset review” five years since the law’s passage should be publicized when done, and anyone seeking national office should get a copy. Compiling CSO assessments is the Ateneo School of Government, where this writer is a lecturer.

    Pending that review, we turn to the Commission on Audit’s 2014 reports on DRRM done in the wake of Yolanda: “Disaster Management Practices in the Philippines: An Assessment” and “Assessment of DRRM at the Local Level”. Both are available at: http://coa.gov.ph/index.php/reports/disaster-risk-reduction-and-management-reports.

    Inadequate funds for disaster readiness

    The COA reports show at least one grave deficiency: lack of funding for disaster preparedness. In 2012, the year before Supertyphoon Yolanda devastated the Visayas, auditors said there were no major achievements reported in LGU capability building for calamity response and management.

    Said the first report on disaster management practices: “Even in the case of a national agency such as OCD, not much has been accomplished with regard to the projects under Disaster Preparedness, of which it is the lead agency. There were no reported accomplishments in the calendar year (CY) 2012 Performance Review and Assessment of the NDRRMP [National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan].”

    COA added that DRRM funding remained skewed toward disaster relief under the Department of Social Welfare and Development, rather than risk reduction and capability building under the Department of Interior and Local Government. After 2009, state auditors noted, “there has been no Calamity Fund released to DILG responsible for disaster preparedness. [Instead,] the government has shifted its priority … giving the largest share to DSWD, an agency responsible for disaster response.”

    With insufficient LGU disaster readiness funds, COA said DRRM spending was “largely reactive,” with little allotted to prepare for calamities, then massive outlays when they hit. Auditors also lamented the absence of “emergency management system; staff, equipment and other logistics; [and]systematic distribution system” as well as “inadequately trained and equipped response team”.

    This Thursday, my article will look more closely at disaster response and recovery policies and capacities at national and local levels, and offer policy recommendations.

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    13 Comments

    1. the leader of the philippine government is bullshit and stupid. he dont know nothing.. and even he dont know the history of other nation, how this another nation become succussful and prosperous. what is their secret ??
      Manood nmn kayo paminsan minsan ng ibang television channel relates how this country became prosperous nation. hindi yong puro politika. it favors only the yellow regime….not the filipino people in general.

    2. Leodegardo Pruna on

      Saludo ako saiyo Mr. Saludo. Filipinos are very good in planning but short in implementing. Filipinos are not proactive but reactive. Filipinos talks of the past more than preparing for the future. And, as a CHED Commissioner said, the Philippines is a country of crammers. Hope, there is but without action, hope remains just that way. God bless the Philippines.

    3. Whilst I agree that we have to address disaster readiness, I am sure there are priority development programs and goals that need to met by the current government. This is no brainer. You can list all the events, proposals, criteria and score whatever you like but disaster readiness was not the priority at the time when the development plan and budget were conceived. Definitely there is budget allocated for disaster readiness i.e various monitoring equipment were purchased and the improvement in the readiness overall which the previous government should also have considered.
      With due respect Mr. Saludo do not have to bragged about his accomplishments and positions held in government and private. What the common people need now is to stop political overtures and rhetoric and start work together for common good of our country.

      • Thank you for your comment, JRT.

        The aim of this series of articles is to provide objective, well-researched information on major national issues, in order precisely to minimize “political overtures and rhetoric” and focus on factual analysis.

        I apologize if citing my education and governance work may seem like bragging. However, some readers do want to know the qualifications of a writer to expound on matters of national concern, especially those who may not know much about me. It is for them that the writer’s background is given.

        Thank you again.

      • Thanks Ric. For us OFWs, given our status as heroes (sending much needed dollars to our country) what we hope to see that the next government will do is to resolved or improved the following;
        1. Reduce brain drain …millions of skilled and talented Filipinos are working abroad thus reducing the quality of workforce in our country
        2. Increase exports…garments, electronics, steel assemblies, electronics, etc. We should decrease the number of OFW especially care givers who prone to abuse and contributing to the headache of our embassies and consulates.
        3. Expand heavy industries…shipbuilding, rail system, subsea cables, etc. This will provide additional jobs to millions of Filipinos.
        4. Improve infrastructures (quality) …airports, highways, railways, etc. This will not only improve the productivity but also extend the life of the structures but good to the eyes of the people.
        5. Improve design of buildings to stand earthquake better housing for the poor. This will take care of the disaster.
        About the writer ..I received appreciation award (twice) as team leader for the Dubai Quality Award from the Ruler of Dubai for helping them to improve their quality in their industries. Lastly, I thank God for allowing me to feed my family and educate my children in decent school without resorting to stealing or corruption as it is seen common to our country! maraming salamat po!

      • fyi.. No hard facts about stealing on current government. Perhaps, previous and I hope they are imprisoned. Therefore, I dis-agree with the comment! Please do not blow smoke.

      • JRT do you do anything except try to spin the wrongdoings of the Aquino government ? Seems all you do is defend them. Blow smoke is the only say you ever say. Put the pipe down JRT

      • I am not spinning the issue at all! I ask you to prove to us OFW that the half of the budget were stolen. Is that a difficult thing to do? I bet it is.
        I defend those people (many of them in government) who put effort in making our economy improved. Lets give credit where credit is due.
        Ang mahirap sa atin puro tayo negative..walang posiitve. Hindi balance ang criticism.

      • Remember the $30-million extortion attempt on Czech railway firm Inekon Group by Metro Rail Transit (MRT) officials? Inekon’s top executive even submitted an affidavit to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) detailing how MRT general manager Al Vitangcol 3rd and his cohorts tried to shake them down.

        —–
        There is also the highly questionable P1.2-billion purchase of 21 refurbished UH-1D military helicopters involving Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
        ——
        Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in the PNoy administration pocketed millions of pesos budgeted for the meal allowance of detainees and prisoners through a “double budget” scheme.
        P127 million every month (or P1.5 billion per year) in public funds that are being pocketed by corrupt BJMP officials
        ——
        Officials from Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) hired an “old, slow and bedbug-infested” passenger vessel named “FB Bridge” to ferry 766 stranded OFWs from Libya to Malta in August 2014 for $1.8 million despite being offered a faster ship for a much lesser price.

        Malta businessman Kevin Attard reportedly said that Virtu Ferries Ltd. – a Maltese-based operator of a fleet of high-speed passenger catamarans offered to rent out its vessel, HSC San Gwann, for the price of “Lumpsum Euros 345,000” (or approximately $490,000 )

        MRT maintenance scam – Vitangcol awarded the MRT maintenance contract to a thinly-capitalized company partly owned by his uncle-in-law, PH Trams.

        On April 21, 600,000 passengers daily – had only 5 trains operational
        Only 7 MRT trains running on first day of school.

        Not to forget..

        Pork barrel fund scams
        DAP fund scams
        Typhoon Yolanda fund scam
        Comelec / Smartmatic scam

        I could do this all day.
        The Philippines has become a global joke under BS Aquino’s leadership.

    4. Bert O. Romero on

      This is a most welcome series not only for presidentiables but also for those Filipinos who have the greater interests of the country at heart. Nationalism is not selective: national interest is the bottom line.

      I look forward to your succeeding columns on this.

    5. While I do not deny that disaster preparedness and crime are major concerns, those are better left to a street-smart cabinet member. If these will just what the next president should delve into, woe unto us. Is this what “in-depth studies” can only come up with? Well, maybe, those are concerns tailor-made for a Senyor Kho Rheena level of intellect as consulting firms normally tell the client what they want to hear and how such firms are assessed by those firms.

      To tailor policy directions based on funds constraints and fantasize scenarios based on findings of local agencies which by themselves lack the intellectual and visionary minds is a vicious attempt to put a square peg on a round hole. The better question is how to create the funds to pursue those objectives and where such funds should be put to create jobs and employment. This is where the upcoming non-politician would-be presidential candidate differ from those three clowns – he knows how to create the money, without raising taxes, to make the country No. 1 in the ASEAN Region in the next five years.

      • Korek ! Hindi ito trabaho ng presidente, pang-bureaucrat lang ito.Maski sino sa civil service na mataas ang CESO rating kayang-kaya gumawa ng ganito. Yung platform ni Bongbong Marcos na nilabas dito sa Manila Times kamakailan lang ang mahirap gawin, sa sobrang hirap hindi nga kayang tapatan nila Grace Poe, Binay at Mar Roxas hanggang ngayun eh.