Half of Central Visayas LGUs unprepared for disasters

By: Peter L. Romanillos October 31,2014 - 09:06 AM

Almost a year after the strongest storm recorded in world history hit the Visayas, half of the local government units (LGUs) in Central Visayas still do not have disaster contingency plans.

In Cebu province, less than half of the 53 towns and cities have concrete plans of action to respond to small and large-scale disasters according to the Central Visayas office of the Office of Civil Defense.

“The turnout of the contingency plans in the province is a bit low,” said Ver Neil Balaba of the OCD-7.

The OCD had just conducted a regional assessment on disaster preparedness and mitigation of LGUs.

This is based on the latest regional assessment on disaster preparedness and mitigation of local government units (LGUs).

“The turnout of contingency plans in the province is a bit low,” said Ver Neil Balaba, chief of the OCD-7 technical support division.

He said the trend in the region is not much different. Half of LGUs in Siquijor, Negros Oriental and Bohol also do not have disaster contingency plans.

“The contingency plan was introduced as early as 2003 but it was only a prerogative of the LGU. Now through RA 10121, it is mandatory,” said Balaba during the post-Yolanda press briefing at the Central Command in Camp Lapu-Lapu in Cebu City yesterday. (RA 10121 is the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.)

“They are compelled to do this because of what happened in Yolanda (Haiyan). We ought to learn from that experience,” he added.

Balaba said a contingency plan is an indispensable tool in calamity situations because it allows LGUs to anticipate the damage brought by a disaster and in turn use the assessment for emergency response.

Aside from that, the plan also details the quantity of the needed food and shelter assistance, personnel and other needs through a pre-determined list of operational guidelines.

Work in progress

In a separate interview, the province’s disaster risk reduction and management officer (PDRRMO) Baltazar Tribunalo affirmed the OCD’s findings.

But after supertyphoon Yolanda, he said a number of LGUs have started crafting their own contingency plans, on top of their DRRM plans, which is more detailed and comprehensive.

He said their office is now in the process of plotting the province-wide contingency plan from the cities of Naga to Danao in anticipation of floods, typhoons and landslides.

“It’s more than 50 percent. It cannot be done by one person. We are very sorry for that but honestly, that is the truth. It cannot be done in even a year,” he said.

Unexpended funds

In yesterday’s budget hearing at the Capitol, Tribunalo was asked to explain why the PDRRMO office only spent P40 million out of its P108 million calamity fund for 2014.

Tribunalo said they plan to spend the remaining budget for the purchase of equipment and housing assistance for Yolanda victims in northern Cebu.

This year, the biggest appropriation under the Governor’s office is for Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund which was listed at P121.9 million.

LGUs are mandated by the law to allocate at least 5 percent of its annual budget as disaster fund.
This disaster fund is divided into the 30 percent quick response fund and 70 percent for disaster preparedness and mitigation.

Under RA 10121, unused calamity funds cannot be reverted to the general fund of LGUs, but are required to be deposited in a special trust fund for disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM). It can only be used for DRRM related projects and activities.

Money not the problem

According to Tribunalo, the lack of contingency plans does not concern the issue of funding.

To be able to craft effective contingency plans, LGUs must have their own set of DRRM officers – an area where towns and cities sorely lack.

He said this was why a large chunk of the calamity fund will be spent for trainings and workshops for first responders in the various LGUs.

Thirteen million was allocated for the workshops to be facilitated by PDRRMO next year.

Tribunalo said these are “highly-specialized” trainings which involves a number of barangays and the services of DRRM experts from around the country.

“In 2014, the trainings focused merely on the awareness of the law such as RA 10121. But next year, we’re conducting trainings that is more skill-specific such as courses on emergency evacuation, search and rescue,” said Tribunalo.

Bulk of the budget for disaster preparedness would be spent for the development of an early warning system in towns and cities while P15 million would be spent to come up with a new hazard, vulnerability and capacity map.

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