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THE ROLE OF LOCAL INSTITUTIONS IN REDUCING VULNERABILITY TO RECURRENT NATURAL DISASTERS AND IN SUSTAINABLE LIVELIHOODS DEVELOPMENT IN HIGH RISK AREAS

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4. Conclusions and Recommendations


Local institutions could demonstrate an efficient disaster preparedness and response delivery through measurable indicators.

Establishment of a three source based early warning and communication system with a feedback arrangement to enable communities to undertake pre-disaster preparatory activities. The early warning system is based on information from National forecast agency (PAGASA), on weather parameters, local irrigation authorities on hydrological parameters and communities on actual river level positions based on their experience. These three sourced information flow provides site specific disaster warning.

The warning is communicated through a specialized NGO on communications to various users. The early warning system is capable of altering communities providing at least 24 to 48 hours lead-time. This lead-time is utilized to save lives, preserve livestock and household assets. Relief assistance could reach within 6 hours of evacuation of affected people to designated evacuation centres. This system could result in zero casualties of human lives and maximum protection of livelihood assets. The expenditure on relief assistance has come down significantly in recent years.

Empowering local institutions through National policies could promote establishment of on-site disaster management system

The adoption of local government code 1991 empowered the local institutions to avail greater decision making powers at the local levels and provide opportunities to search and apply localized solutions to problems posed by natural disasters. Disaster happens at the community level. The local government being closer to the communities, were able to tailor National norms and plans to match the needs of the communities. The disaster management experiences of Dumangas municipality and its local support organizations like communication, NGO, search and rescue NGOs, the Economic Council, the private sector consortium and the BDCs of affected barangays could manage 2000 typhoon related floods and 2001 flooding without outside interventions to carry out the following

The role of local Government in ensuring on-site disaster management capability freed National and sectoral agencies from undertaking these essential response functions. The role of National agencies were restricted to coordination and information sharing activities.

Local institutions could build up experiences from previous disasters and refine locally sustainable disaster management systems.

Over the years, communities have evolved their own coping mechanisms to manage disaster situations. The accumulated experiences of the communities and the resilience built by it are valuable assets in disaster reduction and management. The local institutions, being closer to communities could make use of these experiences and strengthen them by supportive and empowering measures. For example, the evolution of institutional management systems in Dumangas illustrates that it could draw from the experiences of Disaster Brigades and Mountain Tigers to establish DREAM volunteers. The DREAM volunteers received specialized training search and rescue from 505th Search and Rescue Group of the 502nd Search and Rescue Squadron of the Philippine Air Force. As these community members are available within the community, their services are available continuously without any additional costs to the local government and hence sustainable.

Local institutions could make creative use of local resources and hence could be cost effective

The entire disaster management system is built on local resources with trust and motivation of participating communities with a strong level of social capital. Hence, large-scale interventions from centralized agencies are not called for (rather the local Government could able to provide its services for search and rescue operations through other provisions in recent times). For example, the role of Economic Council in providing relief assistance to affected population in a decentralized manner could obviate the need for centrally managed high cost relief procurement storage and delivery systems.

The fund made available by the Memorandum Circular issued by the DILG and DBM, utilizing the LCF for disaster preparedness to man-made threats, was creatively used by the local government by integrating disaster management into the training program for barangay tanods and the National police to counter crime and terrorism.

The training of communication and DREAM NGOs were from locally available but Nationally controlled expertise. The municipal government equipped the team, and provides honoraria to team members. It also continues to provide opportunities to involve the team in disaster prevention activities (e.g. river and coastal cleanup) during non-disaster times.

Local institutions could create and sustain an inclusive participatory institutional system for effective disaster management

The establishment of specialized task forces to carry out warning, communication, transport, rescue, evacuation, supply, relief, medical, fire damage assistance, security and over all damage control at the barangays level under the overall coordination of barangay captain ensured inclusion total community in disaster management. Our assessment revealed that each task force had 15-20 members and all the households of the barangays had a membership in one task unit or other. Almost each one of the household participated in at least one of the specialized functions and thus the system could involve the entire community for disaster management activities. The all inclusive and community participatory system with high level of social capital ensured community based disaster management systems.

The local institutions could mediate with National agencies to bring in locally relevant scientific advancements for effective disaster management

The PAGASA provides a centralized climate forecast information covering country as a whole and season as a whole. This climate forecast information is not useable at the local level because of its coarse resolution. Recognizing the frequent crop failures due to climate hazards, the local government, Dumangas had approached PAGASA to provide localized forecast information. PAGASA expressed inability to provide such information due to its limited observation system in the country and they could spare no resources for establishing local observation systems. Considering recurring losses and the value of climate information in minimizing climate risks and maximizing potential benefits of climate resource the local government offered to provide space and initial investment for establishing agro-met stations. PAGASA and ADPC agreed to provide technical expertise and ADPC provided technical expertise for establishing climate forecast application system.

The functioning of local agro-met stations have greatly helped to enhance lead-time as well its application potential for disaster management in Dumangas.

The local institutions could establish a system to respond highly localized but locally devastating disasters which National level institutions ignore

The experiences of management of May 2003 flooding in Dumangas illustrate that the localized disasters could undermine livelihood systems of communities. The recurrent highly localized disasters could cause accumulation of risks at the community level. National level agencies are not sensitive to this kind of locally devastating developments. Effective management of May 2003 floods by the local institutions had greatly helped in minimizing the disaster impacts

The informal social networks could provide mechanisms to take care of most vulnerable households

The relief assistance is distributed equally among all the households. We found that 11 households in barangay Maquina and 7 households in barangay Balud were most vulnerable and they deserved to receive a higher allocation of relief assistance. From the discussions with vulnerable households, we found that because of kinship relations the well-off households who received assistance handed-over part of relief assistance to vulnerable households. While formal local institutions could not evolve a mechanism to provide relief assistance according to vulnerability, the informal social network could address this gap.

Limitations of informal social networks

The traditional social security system depends on communities "real resource base" to provide assistance to most vulnerable households. The gradual erosion of material resource through democratic pressure on land and natural resources, change of traditional occupations and commercialization of labour and tenancy systems cause shrinkage of community resource base. During severe disaster events, erosion of "real resource base" combined with competitive market relationships enhances the collective risks of vulnerable households. However, the provision of minimum social assistance to enable vulnerable households to tide over crisis situation is still available. There is a need to understand the role of traditional mutual mechanisms in the redistribution of relief assistance during disasters.

Gaps in addressing differential vulnerability

Relief assistance for rehabilitation of agriculture is given in the form of seeds to the affected farmers who own the land. As most of the farmers are tenants, they do not have access to this kind of relief assistance which would enable them to recover fast from disaster impacts. The rehabilitation assistance is calculated and provided with reference to absolute and not relative loss due to disasters. The poor households incur disproportionately greater losses when compared to total value of losses suffered by wealthier households. Hence, there is a need to evolve a mechanism to provide rehabilitation assistance considering capacity to recover rather than total loss incurred by households. The local institutions could articulate this requirement of poor and vulnerable household and provide livelihood package in accordance with the needs of these households.

The vulnerable households have devised various strategies to reduce risks. These risk management strategies entail adoption of hazard risk minimization rather than income maximization strategies. Thus these strategies render vulnerable households not to exploit potentially income enhancing opportunities. In the aftermath of disasters poor households chose not to borrow to meet their basic needs. Even if credit facilities are available, the poor households could not avail it due to lack of collateral arrangements. These factors contribute delay in recovery of affected vulnerable households. The subsequent disasters compel them to borrow from informal credit markets with high interest rate of 20 to 30 % per month. This has resulted in accumulation of debts and tapping in debt spiral. The local institutions could act as intermediary institutions between banks and the vulnerable households to evolve a credit delivery mechanism to suit the livelihood needs of vulnerable households.

Natural disasters have implications for the relative revenue-raising capacity and pattern of expenditure of different local government units. Since 1991, the Philippine Government has been introducing a gradual programme of devolution, including the transfer of responsibility for some taxation and a number of duties directly or indirectly related to disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness and response away from National government. Local governments are also obliged to set aside 5% of revenue for use in the event of a disaster. Clearly, different local government units (LGUs) therefore face varying disaster-related expenditure demands and revenue-raising capacities depending on the incidence and severity of hazards. Yet these differences are not taken into account in the allocation of National government resources. Ultimately, inequalities in the availability of resources between LGUs arising as a consequence of natural disasters could impinge on the overall standard and level of provision of services and infrastructure in more hazard-prone areas of the country.

Local institutions could promote establishing a mechanism for contingency funding for reconstruction recovery

The damage to bridges, roads, irrigation systems, schools, health clinics, communication facilities etc. seriously impair the recovery of affected population. The swift reconstruction of basis infrastructure following disasters has immediate social benefits. However, National and sectoral agencies who are responsible for maintenance and upkeep of physical infrastructure do not undertake immediate repair and restoration due to procedural and resource constraints.

The local institutions could be entrusted with restoration of these infrastructure with participation of communities. Our discussions with affected household revealed that they were willing to contribute labour and local materials and the local government could provide some resources and supervision and the National Government could have financial and technical resources. These participatory arrangement with a contingency funding for reconstruction recovery spearheaded by local institutions could promote speedy reconstruction recovery process.

Local institutions could mediate between local communities and National governments for policy changes to take care of locally relevant development measures

All local governments are not equally disaster prone. Some local governments are in highly disaster prone areas. The disasters have serious impact on local government finances. However, National policy for devolution of finances do not recognize these differential vulnerabilities. Also the reconstruction of damaged infrastructure requires reapprisal of National polities. The local institutions can articulate these nuances and help National governments to evolve appropriate policies to address differential vulnerabilities.

Disaster risk is to be treated as a continuous threat and a holistic approach need to be evolved to minimize these risks and promote sustainable development.

The production environment before and after the disasters has a large impact on the capacity of people to recover. The immediate coping after the disasters could be solved by various emergency efforts. The risk of severe damage to household livelihood conditions comes from serious of production problems before and after disasters constraints the recovery process. 2000 floods in the affected areas were followed by heavy rains in September 2001 during first crop seasons and droughts during 2002 first crop season and May 2003 flooding. These repeat disasters in a row of three years seriously affected recovery of households. Climate risk is to be treated as a continuous threat and a holistic approach is to be evolved to treat disaster management as a continuum from preparedness to emergency response to recovery, reconstruction, mitigation and prevention. The local government have already evolved an integrated a disaster management and development plan covering all cases of disasters. The National policies are yet to recognize and factoring this approach of integrity disaster management into development planning. The initiatives taken by the local governments could motivate the National policy makers to evolve and implement a holistic disaster management policy.


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