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close this bookDisaster Preparedness - 2nd Edition (DHA/UNDRO - DMTP - UNDP, 1994, 66 p.)
close this folderPART 1 - Planning for disaster preparedness
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentVulnerability assessment
View the documentPlanning
View the documentInstitutional structure
View the documentInformation systems
View the documentResource base
View the documentWarning systems
View the documentResponse mechanisms
View the documentPublic education and training
View the documentRehearsals
View the documentCASE STUDY
View the documentSUMMARY


Citizenry-based disaster preparedness in the Philippines

Because of their geographic location and physical environment, the citizens of the Philippines suffer from the effects of typhoons, storm surges, volcanic eruptions, floods, droughts, earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides, in addition to “red tide” infestations of seawater fishing areas. The country is situated on the western rim of the Pacific Ocean where 50% of the worlds tropical storms originate, and on the “ring of fire” where 80% of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. Another major factor contributing to vulnerability is increasing poverty levels: more than 70% of Filipinos live below the poverty line. Furthermore, approximately 50% of the housing in the country is made of light materials which are not resistant to strong winds and floods.

Description of events: Typhoons and floods are the main disaster events in the Philippines. According to government estimates, typhoons cause a average of 500 deaths per year and damages of US $128 million. Heavy rains accompanying typhoons, exacerbated by deforestation, soil erosion and siltation/clogging of waterways, cause extensive flooding and landslides. In the typhoon “Uring” disaster of November 1992, more than 8,000 people were killed in flashfloods, presumably brought about by uncontrolled logging.

A major earthquake has occurred in the Philippines once every six years. In 1990, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake killed 1,666 and caused US $440 million in damage. Of the 220 volcanoes in the country, 21 are considered active. In June of 1991, Mt. Pinatubo erupted resulting in US $400-600 million in damage, affecting 1.2 million people with ashfalls, mudflows and lahars and permanently altering the environment.

In addition to the “natural” hazards, humans have created their own disasters by engaging in armed conflict for the past twenty years. Insurgent groups have established strongholds in many parts of the country where fighting occurs with government troops. Hundreds of thousands of persons have become uprooted or displaced from their homes, posing significant social and economic costs.

Government disaster mitigation and response:

The Philippines loses about 2% of its GNP to disasters each year, has a population growth of 2.3%, and a considerable foreign debt load. At least a five percent growth in GNP per year is required to maintain income levels. This growth level, however, was not achieved between 1986-91 and vulnerability to disasters has increased. Need to boost the GNP has led to exploitation of resources resulting in deforestation, erosion and pollution of water sources.

A national council was established in 1978 to oversee disaster mitigation as mainly an advisory and coordinating body, but it lacks funding and decision making power. Two national early warning systems agencies suffer the same shortages of funding and resources. A calamity fund which can be appropriated for relief and rehabilitation has been slow to respond in the past, and the result has been a high level of dependency on external relief assistance.

Citizen’s Disaster Response Network: In the late 1980’s, concerned citizens began to set up a nationwide network for disaster response called Citizens’ Disaster Response Center (CDRC) which later became CDRN (network). The key concept behind the agency was the recognition that vulnerable sectors of the population should be the main actors in disaster response and not merely victims requiring outside assistance. This prompted preparedness and resource mobilization efforts. CDRN tries to provide a framework for helping communities avoid or recover from disasters. It also seeks to be development oriented in its approach to relief and rehabilitation operations.

Interagency Coordination - Operating from 19 centers, CDRN collaborates with municipal and village level disaster response committees, particularly in areas affected by the major disasters mentioned above. CRDN went on to establish relationships with other agencies on a national level and formed an interagency network, composed of nine agencies including four NGOs. Each unit of the network can be activated to form an emergency structure composed of a disaster coordinator other staff dealing with information, local resource generation, finance and logistics and field officers. CDRN relies on peoples’ organizations (POs) from local populations to mobilize disaster volunteers in sufficient numbers to perform different aspects of disaster management

Planning: Agencies work together to avoid duplication in drawing up of a disaster operations plan. The plan includes:

1) Analysis of vulnerabilities and capacities - This includes summing up of the physical, social and motivational conditions of the communities, including coping mechanisms and responses. National data is verified through field visits.

2) Situation assessment - Information gathering activities must be planned to be the basis for rapid implementation and to provide the direction for immediate interventions.

3) Adequate logistic support - The importance of earmarking funds for emergency relief operations was underscored by the 1990 earthquake and 1991 eruptions. A stockpile of goods is needed for immediate access, and transport and communications networks should be pre-planned.

Training: CDRN has developed training modules relative to specific problems in the Philippines. Following the Mt. Pinatubo eruption of 1991, CDRN training included education inputs on volcanoes and volcanic eruptions, evacuation, and drills on relaying warning signals. First, the disaster response networks and the POs are given training and they, in turn, conduct education campaigns in the affected communities.

Formation of volunteer teams: The experience of CDRN in forming grassroots volunteer teams has shown that the teams lessen the impact of disasters and reduce costs of relief and rehabilitation. A program has been set up for the communities which continue to be threatened by eruptions and lahars from Mt. Pinatubo. The functions of this program, named the Barangay Disaster Response Unit, are

Disaster Preparedness: training in skills and operations related to disaster preparedness such as hazard mapping, disaster planning and community drills.

Mitigation: implementing development projects to lessen the effects of disasters.

Social mobilization: enlisting support from the entire community and mobilizing members to deal with issues and problems.

Networking: linking with government agencies, the private sector, POs and NGOs.

Collaboration to solve problems - CDRN does not take the place of government agencies but rather cooperates with them to exchange information and services. Interaction with NGOs has facilitated mutual learning and understanding and, most importantly, the maximization of resources. Both local and foreign donor agencies have much to contribute beyond providing funds, in terms of expertise, ideas and suggestions. Realizing that certain issues affect vulnerability to disasters, CDRN also collaborates with NGOs and POs to seek solutions to the problems of foreign debt and environmental degradation. CRDN acts as an advocate for human rights and works toward finding a settlement to the armed conflict.

Source: Delica, Zenaida G., “Citizenry-based Disaster Preparedness in the Phillipines”, in Disasters vol. 17, Number, pp. 239-247., September, 1993.