The question of LGU disaster preparedness

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B Jimenez - The Freeman

Climate change and global warming are wreaking havoc on humanity. In the last national convention of the League of Cities of the Philippines led by Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama as national president, I posed a challenge to all the city mayors attending: How prepared are the city governments for super typhoons, torrential flood, tsunamis, and other weather disturbances brought about by the global climate change. The just-experienced super typhoon Karding has even made such a question more urgent again.

Our country is located right at the center of the Pacific Ring of Fire and along Asia-Pacific's Typhoon Belt. We are prone to be hit by hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, wildfires, floods, tsunamis, and landslides. The national agencies tasked to plan, implement, and monitor responses to natural disasters and calamities are now relying more and more on the local government units, especially provinces and cities, for disaster plans and execution.

The local autonomy code has devolved the functions of implementing disaster responses that include all interventions from rescue, and reliefs to retrieval and rehabilitation. The big question is how prepared are LGUs for such eventualities. There are trapos running cities and provinces who delegate all these to underlings and subalterns whose levels of commitment are highly questionable.

The Philippines is still struggling to recover from the tremendous effects of the pandemic, and the economy cannot afford to be crippled again by another strike of natural disaster. Thus, the LGUs must be prepared to accept full responsibility for taking care of their respective constituencies.

The LGUs located in the coastal areas are challenged to protect concentrations of settlements and communities of poor fisherfolks and marginal working families living in houses built with light materials. Sea levels around the archipelago are bound to rise faster and most deaths are caused by drowning. Informal settlement of urban and rural poor tend to congregate along the shores and these are the most vulnerable areas that call for immediate evacuation. Mayors and governors should know their respective areas of vulnerabilities and must be ready to respond quickly and effectively.

By this time provincial governors and city and municipal mayors should have already acquired a higher degree of expertise in disaster preparedness including techniques at mitigation of mortality and damage to property. The national government has formulated a National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Framework based on the provisions of a law passed by Congress, the National Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010. All local executives should study and master the provisions contained therein.

After having experienced the post-Yolanda confusions on how to manage international and local reliefs, the national government has developed a template on proper management of all assistance from global, regional, and national donors.

The mayors and governors should always aim at zero mortality and minimum losses. They should train all their constituents down to the barangay, street, homeowners association, puroks, and neighborhood levels. This is one of the modules I am sharing with all the LGUs that invited me to serve as consultant on LGU management of human capital.

This coming Monday, October 3, in a five-star hotel in Cebu, I shall be conducting a three-day capacity enhancing session for the whole city government of a Central Visayas LGU. The mayor, vice mayor, all councilors, department heads and leaders of civil organizations are attending. This city is one of the outstanding LGUs in Region 7. The mayor is passionate, dynamic and a visionary. He has a beautiful dream for his people.

I am happy to work with LGUs aside from my other constituencies, the academe and the labor and management sectors. Working with city mayors is my newly-found advocacy to help build communities and strengthen our peoples' preparedness for disasters and calamities. Right after my peregrination and academic safari to 51 countries in 100 days, I bring with me a rich reservoir of knowledge and insights from the four corners of the world. I help build our nation even when I have no public position.

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