Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero urged the national government to utilize the P1 billion People’s Survival Fund (PSF) to enable local government units (LGUs) participate in the United Nations (UN) drive for disaster-resilient communities.
Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources made the call after the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) revealed that only 170 out of over 1,700 cities, towns and provinces in the country have signed up for the global campaign, which aims to raise the profile of resilience and disaster risk reduction among local governments and urban communities worldwide.
For a country that endures an average of 20 typhoons every year, the Philippines, he said, stands to benefit from the campaign and come up with “better and more effective strategies on disaster preparedness.”
“The national government should take advantage of the UN drive to prepare LGUs to become disaster-resilient since they stand at the forefront of reducing risks and managing disasters,” said Escudero, the frontrunner in the vice-presidential race.
The UNISDR launched the “Making Cities Resilient” campaign in May 2010 aims to promote “sustainable urban development by promoting resilience activities and increasing local level understanding of disaster risk.”
“The objectives of the ‘Making Cities Resilient’ campaign are threefold, and can be achieved through building long-lasting partnerships to: invest wisely, by identifying budget allocations within local government funding plans to invest in disaster risk reduction activities; and build more safely, by including disaster risk reduction in participatory urban development planning processes and protect critical infrastructure,” UNISDR said on its website.
Cities and local governments can sign up by either becoming a champion, a role model, or a participating city or local government which are expected to “contribute know-how, resources and provide overall support to the campaign within their reach and capacity.”
Escudero said the national government could utilize the P1-billion special fund which was established by virtue of Republic Act 10124 to improve the resilience of LGUs to natural hazards through their participation in the “Making Cities Resilient” campaign.
He said the high number of fatalities during the onslaught of typhoon “Nona” and tropical depression “Onyok” in December despite early preparations of LGUs only underscores the need for more proactive efforts in terms of disaster preparedness.
The 2016 National Expenditure Program (NEP) provides that the P1 billion allocated as PSF “may likewise be used to cover any deficiency in the implementation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Program, and Yolanda Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program, subject to the approval of the President of the Philippines.
The PSF may finance local adaptation initiatives such as water resources and land management; risk insurance for farmers, agricultural workers and other stakeholders; infrastructure development and protection of natural ecosystems; monitoring of vector-borne diseases triggered by climate change; forecasting and early warning systems; contingency planning for droughts and floods; establishing and strengthening information networks to support adaptation initiatives; and other community support programs by organizations accredited by the Climate Change Commission.
Escudero said government efforts to improve the resilience of communities to natural hazards would not be possible without enabling LGUs to effectively prepare and respond to disasters.
The LGUs, he said, need assistance from the national government on climate change adaptation measures as shown by a 2014 study made by the Commission on Audit (COA) on Disaster Management Practices in the Philippines.
The said study found an “imbalance between budget level and risk exposure of LGUs on climate change.”
“There is a significant imbalance between the risk exposure of poor, vulnerable LGUs and their available resources to prevent and cope with the impact of disasters. LGUs with higher vulnerability to disasters are also those which belong to the low-income class,” COA said.
“While the law encourages LGUs to invest on disaster risk management, the current system, however, [makes] LGUs poorer and island provinces for example at a disadvantage, as they have lower revenues and thus, less available resources for their calamity fund,” the independent constitutional body noted./Office of Senator Chiz Escudero