By Pet Melliza/ The Beekeeper
Before answering that, let’s take a peek on Republic Act 10121 or Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) law enacted on May 27, 2010.
The law “(u)phold(s) the people’s constitutional rights to life and property by addressing the root causes of vulnerabilities to disasters, strengthening the country’s institutional capacity for disaster risk reduction and management and building the resilience of local communities to disasters including climate change impacts” (Section 2.a, DRRM Act).
With the Act, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) becomes the DRRM Council and local disaster coordinating councils into LDRRM Councils.
Civil society groups, among them the Citizens’ Disaster Response Center (CDRC) lobbied for its passage; it took Congress nine years to enact it.
Prior to the DRRM Act, disaster response was lodged on “disaster coordinating councils”. Creating an office focusing on disaster response was optional.
Section 12 of the DRRM Act now makes it mandatory for provinces, towns and barangays to create their respective disaster risk reduction and management offices (committee, in case of barangays) responsible for “setting the direction, development, implementation and coordination of disaster risk management programs within their territorial jurisdiction”.
Further, the act mandates the integration of DRRM in school curricula and public sector employees must not only know the theory but must train in disaster response (Section 14).
Three years ago, media organizations particularly the National Union of Journalist of the Philippines (NUJP) held a national training in Mindanao for members on responding to crisis situation (fire, flood, earthquake, and physical attacks).
Earthquake drills are now held yearly at the Iloilo Provincial Capitol and some towns.
However, Iloilo Province has no DRRM office yet and the budget for it frozen because the sangguniang panlalawigan did not approve the DRRM Plan and “held in abeyance” the P60 million that the executive department proposed.
That means, when disaster strikes (the heavens forbids!) Gov. Arthur D.Defensor, Sr. will be helpless if the sanggunian refused to approve the P60million calamity fund. Defensor’s hands in this case, are tied.
The act of the sanggunian defies Section 21 of the DRRM Act which, to quote it in full, mandates:
“The present Local Calamity Fund shall henceforth be known as the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (LDRRMF). Not less than five percent (5%) of the estimated revenue from regular sources shall be set aside as the LDRRMF to support disaster risk management activities such as, but not limited to, pre-disaster preparedness programs including training, purchasing life-saving rescue equipment, supplies and medicines, for post-disaster activities, and for the payment of premiums on calamity insurance. The LDRRMC shall monitor and evaluate the use and disbursement of LDRRMF based on the LDRRMP as incorporated in the local development plans and annual work and financial plan. Upon the recommendation of the LDRRMO and approval of the sanggunian concerned, the LDRRMC may transfer the said fund to support disaster risk reduction work of other LDRRMCs which are declared under state of calamity.“Of the amount appropriated for LDRRMF, thirty percent (30%) shall be allocated as Quick Response Fund (QRF) or stand-by fund for relief and recovery programs in order that situation and living conditions of people in communities or areas stricken by 27 disasters, calamities, epidemics, or complex emergencies, may be normalized as quickly as possible.“Unexpended LDRRMF shall accrue to a special trust fund solely for the purpose of supporting disaster risk reduction and management activities of the LDRRMCs within the next five (5) years. Any such amount still not fully utilized after five (5) years shall revert back to the general fund and will be available for other social services to be identified by the local sanggunian.”
The law is clear: a local DRRM office is mandatory; allotting no less than 5% of the revenue from regular sources, for DRRM is ministerial, not discretionary. Of that, 30 percent is earmarked as “quick response fund”.
The DRRM was in response to calamities that visit the Philippines yearly.
Carlos Padolina, CDRC executive director, notes that the country was hit 14 times by natural disasters, “closely competing” with India and China, a close third at that, in 2010. That figure was an “Improvement” from 2009 with 26 calamities.
The latest disaster, typhoon “Falcon” displaced 1.1 Filipinos, excluding 19 in Davao City (for the first time) perishing from floods.