Climate and Environment

From reactive to proactive: Bill pushes early action to mitigate climate disasters

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
From reactive to proactive: Bill pushes early action to mitigate climate disasters
Men carrying their bicycles as they walk along a debris-covered street in Noveleta, Cavite province on October 30, 2022, a day after Tropical Storm Nalgae hit.
AFP/Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — A House lawmaker has filed a bill that seeks to institutionalize anticipatory actions for mitigating the impacts of hazards before they occur, a move welcomed by humanitarian organizations as a positive step toward addressing climate risks.

Under House Bill 9935 filed by Rep. Jose Manuel Alba (Bukidnon), declaring a “state of imminent disaster” allows using national and local resources for proactive measures before a disaster. 

“This mechanism will enable the government to anticipate and respond effectively to impending disasters, thereby minimizing their adverse impacts on vulnerable communities and enhancing the country’s resilience to disasters,” the bill’s explanatory note read.

Humanitarian organizations within the Start Network welcomed the filing of the bill, calling it a “first-of-its-kind” initiative with the potential to save more lives and livelihoods as the country faces intensified risks due to the climate crisis.

“With early deployment of funds, we can lessen the response time and we can ensure that the measures we execute—from early action to early response—respond to the most immediate needs of communities,” Arvin Caro, country crisis financing advisor of Start Network, told Philstar.com.

He added that providing cash grants before a cyclone hits can enable families to buy necessary supplies like medicine, such as those for preventing diarrhea, and help local governments ensure that evacuation centers meet the needs of women, elderly and children. 

‘Expeditious emergency assistance’

Under the bill, the national government and local government units (LGUs) can declare a “state of imminent disaster” over a cluster of barangays, municipalities, cities, provinces and regions, upon the recommendations of disaster risk reduction and management offices if the projected affected population requires “expeditious emergency assistance” to prepare for a disaster.

A “state of imminent disaster” can also be declared if there is a projected damage to critical infrastructure and facilities that are necessary for emergency response or if there is an expected disruption of lifeline systems such as food supply chain, electricity, potable water system, and communication system.

In cases where there is a change in hazard forecast, the government will adopt a "no regrets" approach, acknowledging that the proposed or undertaken anticipatory actions will still benefit, rather than negatively impact, the targeted population.

Unused funds from local government units (LGUs) will accrue to the special trust fund, while unused funds from national government agencies will revert to the National Treasury upon the lifting of the state of imminent disaster declaration.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Local Social Welfare and Development Offices will be responsible for storing food and non-food items.

Any person or corporation who commits dereliction of duty, leading to loss of life, critical damage to facilities, misuse of funds, or prevents the entry and distribution of relief goods in areas declared under a "state of imminent disaster," will be fined up to P500,000, imprisoned for up to 12 years, or both.

From reactive to proactive

Start Network's Caro emphasized that under the current system, funds are primarily used for disaster response after communities experience the impacts of a disaster.

“In some cases, the wait-and-see approach is delaying actions. There is a glaring gap in that approach because even quick response funds take time to be released to be used for communities’ needs,” Caro said.

“It is high time that we prioritize proactive measures over reactive steps—not only to safeguard the well-being of Filipinos but to enhance the country’s overall resilience by ensuring that our disaster management plans are executed according to community needs, and not just the available budget,” he added.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) piloted an anticipatory approach in Bicol region, Eastern Visayas, CARAGA, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to strengthen the resilience of farming and fishing communities and help ensure food security in times of emergencies. 

In July 2023, the START Network launched a risk-based financing program that uses advanced modeling and science-based trigger systems to provide pre-disaster funds to at-risk communities. 

The pilot activation in Cagayan, which occurred three days before the landfall of Typhoon Egay (Doksuri), reached over 1,300 families.

“[Communities] know what to do ahead of disasters—to protect their livelihoods, secure their houses, and ensure their families’ well-being—they just need funds to execute it,” Caro said.

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