New disaster reduction law strengthens self-reliance

By Victoria Mendoza

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—The Philippines is the most disaster-prone country on earth.

This is the finding of a study made by the Center for Research and Epidemiology Disasters (CRED), an international organization that has been active for 30 years in international disasters.

Located within the Circum-Pacific Belt of fires and along the typhoon path, the Philippine archipelago is vulnerable to all natural hazards like earthquakes, El Niño phenomenon, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and typhoons averaging at 20 tropical cyclones a year, half of which is destructive.

It is estimated that the country incurred an annual damage of P15 billion due to disasters which have caused major setbacks in the socio-economic development of the country.

With its geographical location, the topography, and the global climate change problem, natural disasters are increasing in frequency and severity.

Can the government continue to respond to these disasters?

“There is hope for the Philippines with the passing of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act because this new law, unlike the PD 1566, is pro-active giving importance to mitigation and preparedness measures,” said Office of the Civil Defense Director Chito Castro.

Republic Act 10121 also known as “An Act Strengthening the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management System, Providing for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan, Appropriating Funds, Therefore and Other Purposes” was passed and approved on May 27, 2010 after 21 years of revisions and refiling in the two legislative bodies.

One of the bill’s salient points is the immediate release of calamity funds to local government units so they can prepare for disaster mitigation and preparedness. This is a welcome provision because local government units can utilize 70 percent of the total calamity fund to risk-reduction measures and 30 percent to quick response activities. In the old law, the LGU can only use the calamity fund for quick response activities.

Castro said, “With the new law, the LGU can better address its emergencies and hazards by mitigating its effect and preparing the communities to respond to it through capacity building activities and conduct of public information.”

He also said that with the new provision for the utilization of the calamity fund, the LGU can purchase better communication and early warning devices, search and rescue equipment, and conduct trainings for volunteer groups who would be the first responders for any disasters. It also institutionalizes the monitoring function of the Office of Civil Defense particularly over the use of the LGU’s calamity fund on a periodic basis.

“Experience is the best teacher. The new law provides an enabling environment for the government to pursue DRRM,” said Gonzalez.

As part of the risk-reduction interventions, the OCD is now undertaking the READY Project, a hazard mapping and assessment for effective community-based disaster risk-reduction management. The project with 27 high-risk priority areas has three components: geohazard mapping, community-based disaster preparedness activities, and the mainstreaming of DRMM to the local development plans.

The 27 high-risk areas are in Luzon: Laguna, Cavite, Aurora, Zambales, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, Benguet, Aba, Rizal, Catanduanes, Pampanga, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela, Cagayan; Visayas: Leyte, Southern Leyte, Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Bohol, East Samar, Northern Samar, Antique, Iloilo; and Mindanao: Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Agusan del Sur.

“If the many past disasters taught us anything, it is that we cannot count on solely the national government to save the day,” said Gonzalez.

He said that both the national and the local governments are responsible for disaster management, however, the people are equally accountable to do their own preparedness, mitigation and communication or early warning of impending disasters to ensure one’s survival and safety.

In Section 2 of the RA 10121, it states that the state shall “develop, promote, and implement a comprehensive National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan (NDRRMP) that aims to strengthen the capacity of the national government and the local government units (LGUs), together with partner stakeholders, to build the disaster resilience of communities, and to institutionalize arrangements and measures for reducing disaster risks, including projected climate risks, and enhancing disaster preparedness and response capabilities at all levels.”

This is the essence of the DRRM Act of 2010. The country cannot stop disasters from happening, but we can reduce the impact if continuing and the right disaster preparedness measures are taken. PIA

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