‘Haiyan’ and ‘hayaan’
Two years back, on November 8, Supertyphoon Yolanda, known globally as “Haiyan”, brought unprecedented losses and misery to thousands of citizens and visitors. Those in the cities thought that we had prepared for its onslaught. But as we soon realized, many were not ready enough for the magnitude and severity of the mega typhoon and its dire consequences.
Officially declared as a Category 5 super storm, it shattered historical records as the world’s strongest to make a landfall in six provinces in our country. The devastation was heart breaking, with over 6,000 lives lost, thousands still unaccounted for, over a million people displaced and estimated at costing $13 billion in economic losses, and $1.5 billion in insured losses.
The northern part of Cebu was not spared. But there was a bright shining star in the dark horizon. There was zero-death in a municipality of the island of Camotes. It was not a coincidence that precious lives were saved in San Francisco, an internationally recognized winner in disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) through its purok (sub-barangay) system of governance.
The not-so-magical word that spared the lives of inhabitants is “preparation”. The residents, under the leadership of a local official as champion, with the engagement of an international non-government organization, prepared for disasters and disruptions in their lives years ahead, before Haiyan could unleash its wrath and cripple government operations.
The villagers envisioned the scenario, obtained a profile of community members, did their planning, had regular meetings with a high attendance rate and planned contingencies, including fortifying part of the room in the house which can accommodate more people, instead of going to overcrowded and stuffy evacuation centers.
They, with much determination, collective engagement and political will, did away with a “hayaan” (which means “let”, “allow” or “tolerance of an act”) mindset. This is clearly a bane which has allowed public officials not to prioritize their needs and the delivery of services, of which DRRM is one and, worse, not feeling accountable. This collective mentality means being in a state of self-imposed coziness, choosing to stay in one’s comfort zone and not rocking the boat of pervasive neglect, entitlement and apathy from those obliged to protect our people and natural life support systems.
It has to be emphasized that when Haiyan hit our islands, the legal framework for climate change action and DRRM already existed and so do many laws requiring high standards for the protection of human and environmental rights.
The mandates of crafting a climate change action plan and DRRM plan were undeniably already lodged in the local authorities by law. They are precisely given the power to set aside five percent of their revenues for DRRM. Seventy percent should be used for preparation of the people and infrastructures and thirty percent for the disasters, when they happen.
Yet two years thereafter, municipalities and cities in Cebu are still hard-pressed to gather their constituents and comply with the urgent task of preparing for disasters and displacements that will surely come. They require the partnership of the academe, NGOs, POs, private sector and even the national agencies for the task of generating much-needed data for profiling, geohazards maps, ecosystem evaluation, and most of all, the commitment to ensure safe and healthy communities in their respective jurisdiction.
Baltz Tribunalo, the DRRM czar in Cebu, and whose NGO and leadership were crucial in encouraging the building up of resiliency among the folks from San Francisco, Cebu, needs the cooperation of local and national authorities. The Cebu governor and the mayors should already prioritize this undertaking with the Department of Interior and Local Government duty-bound to supervise the LGUs.
This is a specific instance when political affiliations should be cast aside.
We cannot afford another hit-and-miss attitude or a “hayaan” complacency mode. As some exemplary models in Cebu have shown, having resilient communities can in fact be attained.
Meanwhile, we demand to know, first raised by Sen. Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate Committees on Finance and Climate Change, why there is “slow utilization of the calamity fund and quick response funds (QRF) by particular agencies of government tasked to preposition goods and services in preparation for an impending typhoon and to provide speedy assistance to victims.
According to figures released by her office, “Based on the status report of the Department of Budget and Management on the releases of fund, balance of the 2015 NDRRM Fund or calamity fund is Php10.280 Billion as of Sept. 30, 2015. On top of that, we still have so much left QRF amounting to Php5.458 Billion. We have 81% of the QRF unutilized.”
Understandably for Senator Legarda, “There is no reason that relief and rehabilitation programs would be delayed.
We cannot allow the approval of funds only to remain idle while many disaster victims and climate refugees live in deplorable conditions. We allocate resources to aid the most needy of our people.”
The agencies have a lot of explaining to do on why there is so much underutilization of the Quick Response Funds.
This, Senator Legarda promised to do.
Amid the continuing suffering of our displaced citizens, this is incomprehensible and deplorable, to say the least.
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