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3. ROLE OF LOCAL INSTITUTIONS IN MANAGING RECENT DISASTERS - AN ASSESSMENT


An assessment of local institutional response to recent disasters has been undertaken with reference to each major phase of the disaster management cycle. While detailed analysis is given in the succeeding paragraphs, the highlights of assessments are shown in the figure. It may be observed that the thick line reflects the strong capacity exhibited by the local government organizations in undertaking pre-disaster preparedness and response measures. However, due to various constraints, the management of recovery phase of the disaster reveals some gaps. The recognition of integrating prevention and mitigation into development planning is at the nascent stage.

In Part 1 we discuss the evolution of institutional responses since 1950s to prepare and response to disasters through a well established preparedness and response system in Dumangas.

In Part 2 we discuss weaknesses discernable in recovery, mitigation phases of disaster management cycle. This section also captures the recent initiatives of Dumangas local government to address these gaps.

Disaster Management Cycle

Part 1: Disaster preparedness and response mechanisms

3.1 EVOLUTION OF INSTITUTIONAL RESPONSE

Figure 16 shows the timeline of disaster events, with the corresponding government intervention.

Figure 16. Local government intervention for disaster management

3.1.1 Developments upto 1990s

After independence (1950) and upto mid-60s, the communities recall that they faced severe hardships due to typhoon, flooding and other weather risks. They organized Disaster Brigades to save lives during floods. Later in mid-70s and 80s, the Disaster Brigades were transformed into Mountain Tigers. The Mountain Tigers received professional training in search and rescue operations through a provincial level NGO. While this development could instill confidence and minimize the loss of lives, due to inadequate early warning and communication systems, disaster related losses continue to seriously impair the livelihood systems in terms of loss of houses, household assets, livestock and crop losses.

3.1.2 Developments during early 1990s

People could vividly call discernable improvements in the 90s after establishment of local governments with decentralized powers through local code of 1991. The organizational arrangements at the municipal and barangay levels were systematically reorganized by learning lessons by periodic natural hazard events. Every natural hazard event triggered institutional changes for managing subsequent disasters better.

Prior to November 1998, the institutional arrangements were weak to monitor hazard and the emergency situation. The local government relied on PAGASA weather updates and typhoon advisories broadcasted from commercial radio stations, police reports on any flood-related incident, and motorists' information on impassable roads.

3.1.3 Developments since late 1990s

In November 1998, after the impacts of Typhoon Loling, a response system was organized. Learning from the disaster management training received by MDCC staff and Liga ng mga barangay in March 1998 proved helpful. Arrangements were made with various agencies for early warning, disaster monitoring and response. Volunteers were trained on search and rescue in 1999 and, in 2000, BDCC staff and barangay Tanods received training on disaster management. The municipal government encouraged and NGO movement called the Dumangas Rescue and Emergency Assistance Movement in July 1999 to ensure quick response and monitoring and reporting of disaster situation. This movement was built upon the earlier experience of Disaster Brigades and Mountain Tigers. The NGO radio communicators group (Kabalikat Civicom Association, Inc.) was formed in January 2000, providing hazard monitoring, emergency situation monitoring and relief assistance support to the MDCC. A Memorandum of Agreement with the National Food Authority was signed for the provision of 50 sacks of rice for relief operations. The Municipal Economic Council a private sector business consortium was established in 2000 to support disaster relief requirements. (See box) This response system was tested in the flood of December 2000 brought by Typhoon Ulpiang.

Box: The economic council was constituted to eliminate delays in providing relief assistance in terms of food and other essential items to flood victims. The government code enjoins commitment of resources from calamity relief fund only after the formal declaration disaster in a given area. The disaster impact assessment is a prerequisite for declaring disaster area. This procedure would normally take about a week or more. The economic council private sector members are authorized to release on credit basis, the food and other essential items to flood victims immediately and the municipal government would authorize reimbursement after completing formalities relating to formal disaster declarations. This arrangement ensured quick and decentralized delivery of essential commodities to flood victims. This arrangement is transparent and proved to be cost effective as no large-scale emergency food transport was called for.

The improvements resulted in improved lead-time of more than 48 hours of impending events and enhanced the community and household level preparedness to withstand the impact of natural hazards.

The establishment of specialized task forces and linked to municipal level local government and NGO and private sector systems with well orchestrated coordination arrangements resulted in efficient delivery of disaster management services. For example, the relief assistance reached the communities at the evacuation centres within 3 to 6 hours. The households were able to preserve not only their lives but also livestock assets and ensuring safety and security of household assets. The interview from the community members revealed that preserving livestock assets could greatly help earlier recovery when compared to earlier occasions. The municipal officials mentioned that expenditure on relief have come down significantly to the households in recent years.

To re-orient the approach to disaster management in a systems mode the MDCC was re-organized in October 2001. Key agencies with resources and functions relevant to the MDCC functions were involved to lead the different MDCC units (e.g. PNP for Assistant Chairman, the Disaster Operations Center and the Intelligence and Disaster Analysis unit, Sangguniang Bayan for resources unit as their resolution is needed for mobilization of the local calamity fund, DECS for evacuation since school buildings are used as evacuation centers, etc.). The number of task units was reduced from ten to five, merging units whose functions are inherent in the lead agencies (e.g. relief and rehabilitation for MSWDO) and to make coordination more effective (e.g. transportation, rescue and evacuation). The decrease in the number of households affected in the flood of November 2001, compared to that in the previous event (Table 9), attested to the improved response system and enhanced coordination among agencies.

Table 16 summarizes the improvements made on managing emergencies from the point of view of the municipal government.

Table 16. Improvements in disaster management, Municipality of Dumangas

Before 1998

Present (2003)

A. Community


People lost their poultry and livestock because of lack of preparation

People now have better and effective ways of securing their poultry and livestock in times of floods

People were hesitant to go to evacuation centers

People readily go to evacuation centers upon the advise of the Municipal and/or barangay officials

Difficult communication procedure due to the lack/insufficiency of communication media

VHF handheld radio handsets, cellular phones, and presence of organized information dissemination teams both in the barangay and municipal level facilitate speedy communication processes required in times of disasters

Transportation problems due to lack/insufficiency of vehicles

The Municipality now owns 3 ambulances, 4 patrol jeeps, 3 dump trucks, 2 utility vehicles, 1 Liga ng mga barangay vehicle, 1 patrol boat, 1 rescue boat, and 10-wheeler trucks that are readily volunteered by private individuals when needs arise.

B. Municipal government


Disaster response was not very systematic

The MDCC has a very structured organization and an established system for pre-disaster, disaster and post-disaster operations

Insufficiency of communication equipment that hampered the conduct of necessary activities

All the Punong barangays have handheld radio handsets; the local Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection and Area Coordination Center all have handsets and official cellular phones; and the existence and active involvement of several volunteer communication groups.

Endeavors of the municipal government were focused on disaster response and not on disaster preparedness/mitigation

The MDCC of Dumangas is composed of various units that have specific functions prior to, during and after disasters. The Agro-Met station is an essential factor in disaster preparation/mitigation. Alongside the Agro-Met station, the municipal government has invested much on the improvement of its communication media and system on the concept of disaster preparedness/mitigation through the dissemination and use of climate information and other relevant data.

No established system of relief and rescue operations

The Dumangas MDCC has specific teams handling relief and rescue operations. Rescue operations are handled by DREAM which is composed of highly-skilled members, most of whom are employees of the Municipality and officials of the barangays.

Poor linkage with support agencies like the PNRC, NFA, OCD, etc.

The municipal government has a very strong linkage with various support agencies that extend ready support to the Municipality in its pre-disaster, disaster and post-disaster endeavors.

The flood event in May 2003 however showed that the system is not able to anticipate an anomalous event. Against normal visitation of floods during October/November the flood that came at the end of the dry season was unexpected, since hazard monitoring was confined to the observation of water levels at the Jalaur River and at the irrigation canals, which at that time were relatively low. Hazard monitoring and early warning failed, and residents were caught unaware of the flood that came at midnight. This however provided an opportunity for systems adjustment. Hazard monitoring now includes rainfall monitoring and the observation of conditions at the farmlands.

3.2 RECOVERY, MITIGATION AND PREVENTION - GAPS

3.2.1 Recovery from disaster

The local institutions with favourable National policies and support could establish an efficient disaster preparedness and response systems through trial and error over a period of time. The discussions with affected households however revealed that the dislocation of agricultural activities and delay in restoring damaged infrastructure continued to be a major concern. These factors affect the recovery of households from disaster impacts. Moreover, the most vulnerable households continue to face risks due to inadequate support to meet their recovery needs.

3.2.1.1 Rehabilitation of agriculture

Paddy crop is exposed to risks to weather hazards in varying degrees in all the seasons. The first wet season crop sown in May/June and harvested in August/September is affected by heavy rains at the time of harvest. The floods in November seriously affect the winter season crop (planted in October/November and harvested in February/March) at active-tillering stage and sometimes force the farmers to replant. As replanting activity besides investment loss forces shifting of crop schedule and expose the crops to droughts in the subsequent year in April. The assistance given to farmers in the form of seeds. The seed assistance is given to land owners and not to the tenant farmers. Hence, the investment made by the tenant farmers in terms of labour is not compensated. On an average, farmers get about one-third of income from paddy crop after adjusting the remaining income towards payment of loans availed for investment. The loss of a portion of net income due to natural hazards increases household vulnerability.

3.2.1.2 Rehabilitation of most vulnerable households

While enhanced disaster preparedness and response enables farmers to move livestock such as pigs, cattle etc., to safer places, the assets which are mostly owned by agricultural labourers like poultry are exposed to water related diseases. As most of the vulnerable households depend more on income from these sources, any loss of poultry or duck increases vulnerability and delays recovery.

Our discussions with most vulnerable households who are very poor and eke out a marginal existence suffer disproportionately. The relief assistance due to shortage is distributed equally to all affected households. The better off households who receive relief assistance however, part with a portion of assistance to the vulnerable households.

There is a community consciousness among all respondents that help should be extended in times of disasters. Be it in the form of offering one's house for shelter to those affected by floods, sharing of food or cooking area, helping community members to move to designated evacuation areas and rebuild destroyed houses, facilitating access to medical and relief services, and even sharing their financial resources, the respondents said help was always available among community members in times of disasters. When asked why they were compelled to help, they responded that it was part of their way of life as Filipinos. Simply put, they cannot sleep nor eat well with the knowledge that there are members of their community who suffer physical dislocation and are threatened by hunger and cold.

While formal political institutions do not address differential vulnerability of communities, the informal social networks to act as a conduit to redistribute relief assistance to most vulnerable households. While community help could partially address most vulnerable households during crisis periods, it seldom addresses their recovery needs.

3.2.3 Reconstruction

The swift reconstruction of basic infrastructures such as bridges, roads, irrigation systems, schools, health clinic etc. following disasters have immediate social benefits The reconstruction of these infrastructure facilities are not under the control of local institutions but sectoral institutions of the National government agencies.

From interview with the Municipal Mayor who chairs the MDCC, the following constraint was identified:

The discussions with community members revealed that the delay in undertaking reconstruction activities affect the recovery process. They mentioned that the community could contribute labour and local materials for restoration of damaged infrastructure, the local and National government departments could provide necessary resources to undertake reconstruction activities. Immediate undertaking of reconstruction activities would provide immediate employment to the population as well as reestablish much needed communication facilities to speed up recovery process.

3.2.4 Prevention and mitigation

The recent increase of fishponds to a level of around 4,000 ha and other inappropriate use of waterways had aggravated flood impacts. The households whom we interviewed mentioned that these developments have become a factor for increased instance of floods. While a few households derive a large benefit from increased income, most others, and particularly, most vulnerable households are exposed to greater risks. Hence, any disaster prevention measure should address risks arising out of these developments.

3.3 RECENT INITIATIVES OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Recognizing these difficulties in 2002, the Municipal Disaster Preparedness Plan was drafted, with participation of representatives from NGOs, civic organizations and business operators. The Plan detailed prevention, mitigation, preparedness, emergency relief and rehabilitation activities.

Disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness activities are increasingly being given importance as emergency relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction. Comparison of budget appropriations for different development activities in the municipality from 2001 till 2003 reveals this (Table 13).

Livelihood programs were started in 2002. One of these is the swine-raising project, where the municipal government gives 1 hog per family to raise and multiply. The family then gives back 2 piglets to the program for distribution to other families. Hogs can be easily evacuated than chickens and ducks.

3.3.1 Use of Climate Information

Realizing the benefits of a climate information issued with sufficient lead time to allow contingency planning, the municipal government established in November 2002 an agrometeorological station to provide local weather and climatic data. Technical support is provided by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). Daily observation of climatic parameters (e.g. rainfall) are undertaken by trained municipal employees. Data are transmitted to PAGASA central office in Manila for interpretation, and then back to the agromet station for dissemination. Agencies such as the municipal agriculture and the irrigation offices use this information in formulating response strategies. For example, utilizing the below normal rain forecasted for Dumangas for the dry season from November 2002 till March 2003, the agriculture office prepared an impact outlook which revealed that farmers at the tail-end of the small-scale irrigation system would not receive enough water for cultivating rice crop. An advisory was then prepared informing farmers of the impending water scarcity during the critical stages of rice growth, and advised them to plant alternate drought resistant or short-duration crops (e.g. watermelon, vegetable, etc.) and to concentrate their efforts on mango production. Advisories were relayed through the Punong barangays during their weekly meeting with the municipal mayor, and were repeated during the nightly radio program of the Punong barangays using handheld radio sets available in each barangay.

Table 17 shows the increased area planted with watermelon and mung bean, and the value of crops harvested. Had the farmers planted rice, they would have lost the crop and not realize this benefit.

Table 17. Crops planted during the dry season 2002-2003 in anticipation of below normal rains based on the climate forecast information provided to farmers

Crop

Area planted, 1998
(hectares)

Area harvested, 2003 (hectares)

Total value of production ('000 PHP)

Watermelon

199

1,284

192,600

Mango

6

500

450,000

Mung beans

70

1,130

38,420

Fruits and vegetables


300

72,000

Total



753,020

Encouraged by the success of the 2003 experience, the municipal government has appropriated funds for the operation of the agromet station and to support climate forecast information application (Table ). This climate forecast information application program, being implemented by the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, bridges farmers, the agriculture and irrigation office and the climate forecast provider (PAGASA) to seize the opportunity provided by advance climate information to mitigate the impacts of disasters. Advance information on the onset of the rainy season and the characteristic of rainfall, for example, will guide farmers' decision on when and what to plant, reducing risk of crop loss.

A regular consultative meeting, facilitated by the municipal mayor, brings together representatives of farmers' groups, FARMC, the municipal agriculture office, municipal irrigation office, and, when necessary, the provincial agriculture office and the regional irrigation office, to discuss needs for information and technical assistance among other issues.

3.3.2 Community-based Flood Forecasting and Warning

Efforts are underway to establish a community-based flood forecasting and warning system at the Jalaur River Basin, in collaboration with PAGASA and with funding support from the congressman of the 4th District of Iloilo Province, Narciso Monfort. Community involvement will be sought in identifying risks and measures to reduce these risks. Community recommendations in other pilot locations include the installation of flood markers and a network of rainfall stations for monitoring. A simple correlation model that the local government can use to forecast flood will be developed by PAGASA.

3.3.3 Public Awareness

Pulong-Pulong sa barangay (barangay meetings) was started in June 2000 to empower the people through enhanced understanding of their responsibilities and rights during emergencies and orient them of agencies that they can ask assistance from in times of need. These meetings also provide opportunities for dialogue between the community and the municipal government.

Also with an aim to empower the people through information dissemination, the municipal government has planned to set up a community radio station that would broadcast time-relevant and accurate information and advisories during emergencies, as well as informative/educational programs for public education and awareness raising. Also included in the planned programming are programs on farming techniques and new technologies, health care, livelihood, and an interactive program that would serve as a platform for community-local government dialogue. Financial assistance has been sought from and committed by Congressman Monfort.

3.3.4 Mitigation and prevention

Infrastructure

Balabag-Maquina-Balud-Compayan-Bantud Fabrica Dike. The 7 km dike was constructed to block the floodwaters from the Jalaur River, and protect the crops of 740 farmers in Balabag, Maquina, Balud, Compayan and Bantud Fabrica whose main source of income is farming.

Farm to market roads (barangay roads). A network of barangay roads transport farm implements, supplies and produce between the farms and the market.

Ongoing projects

3.4 CONSTRAINTS FOR UNDERTAKING PREVENTION AND MITIGATION MEASURES

Recognizing the need for an integrated approach to manage disaster risks to avert its negative impact on development, the local government's efforts are currently focused on prevention, mitigation and preparedness activities. The National government policies are yet to incorporate these concerns. The funding mechanisms for the calamity management needs reappraisal for the following reasons since resource constraint proved to be a formidable barrier for local governments to integrate disaster prevention and mitigation measures into development planning.

An examination of Government finance as per the Local Government Code of 1991 reveals that the National government has to transfer 40% of internal revenue collections and, since 1994, at least 10% of total expenditures to local governments to meet the costs of devolved responsibilities. The Code has also given LGUs some fiscal responsibilities.

The rationale for devolution reflects the fact that since the Philippines contains considerable economic, social and physical diversity, some types of services can be better provided by local authorities, who can adjust them to local needs and preferences, than by the National government. The allocation of National government resources to LGUs is determined by a formula awarding 50% of the resources according to population size, 25% by land area and 25% divided equally between all (local governments of the same category (i.e. provinces, cities and municipalities). This formula effectively aims to improve the quality of life in the least densely populated areas (World Bank, 1995b). However, the World Bank argues that 'the amounts transferred bear no necessary relationship to the actual cost implications of devolved functions. Nor do they take into account the capacity of local governments is to raise their own resources or to carry out devolved functions' (World Bank, 1995a:43). Indeed, the Bank reports that, in practice, resources appear to have been channelled particularly to those LGUs which already have more fiscal resources and that in this way the system is doing little to help reduce regional inequalities.

Regional differences in the nature and rate of incidence of natural hazards also have implications for the equity of this division of resources. Devolved responsibilities include a number of duties which are directly or indirectly related to disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness and response. For example, responsibility for infrastructure projects entailing the construction of seawalls, dykes, drainage and sewerage, flood control, communal irrigation and small-scale water impounding projects which serve the needs of local residents of either barangays or provinces, cities and municipalities has been devolved to LGUs. Social welfare services, including the post-disaster relief activities of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, have also been devolved.[2] Meanwhile, local governments are further obliged under the 1991 Local Government Code to set aside 5% of their estimated revenue from regular sources as an annual lump sum appropriation for use in meeting unforeseen expenditures arising as a consequence of natural disasters. However, varying levels of funding are actually drawn down depending on the incidence of disasters in a particular year.[3] Clearly, different LGUs face varying expenditure demands with regard to natural disasters at particular points in time, depending both on their vulnerability to disasters, and thus on the need for prevention and mitigation projects, and on the actual incidence and severity of disasters. Yet these differences are not taken into account in the allocation of National resources to LGUs. Moreover, the consequences of this shortcoming could be increasingly felt in the future as LGUs take over more responsibilities and, thus, face increasing financial constraints.[4] Although external grant assistance could potentially playa role in alleviating regional disparities, the National government is often only willing to forward external assistance to LGUs on a loan basis, with LGUs paying for the loan even if the National government originally received the assistance on a grant basis. This I effectively means that LGUs feel obliged to use such funding in full cost-recovery projects, a practice which could discriminate against investment in disaster prevention and mitigation projects.

Natural disasters also have implications in terms of the revenue-generating capacity of LGUs, again raising questions of equity in the regional allocation of National government resources. Provinces, municipalities, cities and barangays are allowed to levy certain taxes, fees and other charges for their own use, including business and real property taxes. Such taxes should be equitable and based as far as possible on ability to pay. LGUs can also grant tax exemptions, relief and incentive privileges as they deem fit. In consequence, natural disasters can lead to a decline in revenue both via their potentially dampening impact on economic activities and also via the introduction of disaster-related tax exemptions. For example, land can be exempted from land taxes which accrue to LGUs if natural disasters legally or physically prevent improvement, use or cultivation of that land (Nolledo, 1991). In addition, both LGUs, acting on the recommendation of the local disaster coordinating council (DCC), and the President have the power to reduce or cancel property taxes following a general crop failure or natural disaster (ibid.). Such cuts can help alleviate financial difficulties experienced by households and the private sector but also represent an additional financial disadvantage for more disaster-prone regions of the country.

To help alleviate disaster-related pressures on LGUs, restrictions on rates of disbursement of LGU revenues can be lifted in the event of a natural disaster.[5] However, disbursements can only be made for purposes and amounts included in the approved annual budget, implying little flexibility in the reallocation of resources to reflect changes in expenditure priorities. Furthermore, any overdraft outstanding at the end of a fiscal year must be met from the first collections of the following year's revenue, implying that the local fiscal implications of a natural disaster may be carried through to the following year if, for example, a disaster reduces revenue and thus results in a negative end-of-year balance (ibid.).

In summary, there are therefore clear disaster-related inequalities in the availability of LGU resources which could ultimately impinge on the overall standard and level of provision of services and infrastructure in more hazard-prone areas of the country.


[2] Other devolved responsibilities with indirect implications for disaster prevention and mitigation include agricultural extension and on-site research and community-based forestry projects (of areas not exceeding 50 km2). LGUs are also responsible for enforcing environmental protection laws and for preparing extensive land-use plans.
[3] This reserve had originally been set at 2% under Presidential Decree 477 (which pre-dates Presidential Decree 1566 of 1987 (see below)).
[4] To date, the World Bank (1995a) reports that total transfers to LGUs have exceeded the cost of devolved functions although some LGUs have received insufficient resources.
[5] Under nominal circumstances, total disbursements must not exceed 50% of the uncollected estimated revenue for that year.

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