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Philippine local govt units among UN best of disaster management

Publication Date : 07-10-2012


When disaster strikes, they survive

Three Philippine local government units (LGUs) are on the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction's (Unodrr) list of 29 model communities worldwide that are "exemplars in disaster risk management and reduction."

The LGUs are Albay province; Makati City; and San Francisco town on Camotes Island, Cebu.

These LGUs have been noted for their "best practices" on a wide range of challenges, including flood management, early warning earthquake reconstruction and legislation.

Also on the list are Venice, Italy; Bonn, Germany; Austria's Tyrol province; Mumbai, India; Bangkok, Thailand; Cape Town, South Africa; Santa Fe, Argentina; Santa Tecla, El Salvador; Cairns, Australia; North Vancouver, Canada; Nashhad, Iran; and San Francisco, California, among other places.

In its "Making Cities Resilient" report, the Geneva-based agency also cited the Philippines for the 2010 passage of the Natural Disasters Risk Reduction Act, which is described as a "proactive approach to disaster risk governance."

The act obliges LGUs to earmark 5 per cent of their total revenues to disaster risk reduction. Local governments may also use 20 per cent of their Internal Revenue Allotment from the national government on financing resilience.

In the 114-page report, the Unodrr noted that Albay's disaster risk reduction strategy "centres on relocating businesses and over 10,076 households."

"Albay province has also supported 18 municipalities to prepare comprehensive land use plans that address climate and disaster risks and integrate them into provincial plans. This has been institutionalised through a special planning ordinance and an updated provincial comprehensive land use plan for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and mitigation," it said.

It also praised the province for "involving households in community risk training programmes" and "addressing flood risks through infrastructure projects."

'Sophisticated' system

Makati made it to the UN agency's list for its "sophisticated and efficient disaster risk management system, in which disaster risk reduction, preparedness and emergency management are fully institutionalised with dedicated organisations and direct funding at the local government level."

"The city takes a holistic approach to resilience, recognising that it requires coordination between various sectors and a governance system where disaster risk reduction is mainstreamed into other core activities … In Makati, disaster risk reduction is integrated into urban planning, health, disaster response and risk governance at different governance levels," the report said.

It also noted that Makati engages all levels and sectors of society, particularly barangays;  publishes monthly publications, brochures and posters with risk management messages in local languages; and conducts regular barangay ugnayan or community dialogues to discuss disaster risk management issues.

On the other hand, San Francisco town "has integrated disaster risk reduction into environmental and social development programmes, which prioritise selected resilience targets that are practical and tangible in the eyes of the local community."

"These include solid waste management, tree planting, mangrove rehabilitation and integrated farming. Children and youth are involved in all aspects of resilience building," the report said.

'Purok' system

The municipality's purok (subvillages) system "has been important in mobilising and empowering communities by connecting them into a wider model of participatory governance. The system undergoes regular evaluation to ensure continuous improvement, using indicators developed to measure success," it also said.

Last year, San Francisco won the prestigious UN Sasakawa Award for Disaster Risk Reduction, mainly for its purok system to improve the citizens' ability to manage risk.

In May 2010, the UN agency launched the "Making Cities Resilient" campaign.

As of August this year, more than 1,050 local governments worldwide, including the 29 model cities, have joined the programme.

The model cities "share their knowledge of best practices on a wide range of challenges, including flood management, early warning, earthquake reconstruction and legislation."

"From San Francisco, Philippines, to San Francisco, California, the campaign's constituency ranges from small municipalities in developing nations to some of the world's most populous and economically vibrant capital cities. And while there are significant differences in the ability of local governments to cope with disasters and build resilience, there are also many similarities in the challenges they face and in their political will to invest in making their cities safe," the report said.

Resilient cities

A resilient city is "one where disasters are minimised because the population lives in communities with organised services and infrastructures that adhere to sensible building codes, without informal settlements built on flood plains or steep slopes because no other land is available; where a competent and accountable local government is concerned about sustainable urbanisation and that commits the necessary resources to manage and organise itself before, during and after a natural hazard event; where people are empowered to participate, decide and plan together with local authorities; and where there is an ability to respond and implement immediate recovery strategies and quickly restore basic services after such an event."

In July, the Senate committee on climate change joined the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (Unisdr) in launching a series of radio and TV commercials in the country aimed at educating Filipinos about disaster risk reduction.

Margareta Wahlstrom, Unisdr head, expressed hope that more countries will aspire to become a model like the Philippines, which has already advanced in disaster risk reduction policies.

Philippine tops list

The Philippines tops the list of countries affected by disasters in 2011, according to the Unisdr.

A total of 33 disasters ravaged various parts of the country last year, resulting in the death of scores of people and the destruction of billions of pesos worth of agricultural products, infrastructure and property.

The worst disaster in 2011 was Tropical Storm "Sendong" that hit Northern Mindanao on Dec. 17 and took the lives of over 1,430 people.

Sometime in mid-January, Wahlstrom visited the flood-hit areas in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan Cities to discuss ways to improve the resilience of their communities to similar disasters in the future.

She also called for increased government funding for disaster risk reduction and the establishment of a comprehensive land use policy to better protect LGUs against increasing and more severe climate-related hazards.


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