Just recently, an earthquake shook different parts of the country that killed people and damaged properties, especially in Pampanga. The Philippines, located within the Pacific Ring of Fire and the Pacific Typhoon belt, is most affected and highly vulnerable to earthquakes, floods, landslides, tsunamis, typhoons and volcanic eruptions. In a span of a century from 1900s, 355 disasters have occurred in the country. On average, we are hit by 900 earthquakes and 20 cyclones yearly. In 2010 alone, Php25 million worth of damage to properties have been reported and affected 3 million people. From 1997 to 2007, billions worth of damage in agriculture, infrastructure and private property have been caused by typhoons. Indeed, disasters hurt people, especially the poor.
Essential to the task of attending to the needs of the population, the Philippine government should ensure a safe environment for the people through disaster risk reduction programs and initiatives. Faithful to this task, as early as 1978 under then President Ferdinand Marcos, risks, vulnerabilities and disasters have been put in the political agenda through the promulgation of laws. The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) was created by virtue of Presidential Decree 1566 and was tasked to enhance the nation’s disaster control capabilities and establish community disaster preparedness programs all over the country. In 2010, the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo enacted Republic Act 10121 which sought to strengthen the Philippine disaster risk reduction and management system through a paradigm shift from just disaster preparedness and response to disaster risk reduction and management. It also renamed the NDCC to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). The National Disaster Risk and Management Plan (NDRMP) from 2011 to 2028 was also framed and formulated.
Disaster risk reduction is the design and implementation of policies, strategies and practices to minimize vulnerabilities and disaster risk or to limit adverse impacts of hazards. It is an emerging field of study that emanated from various disciplines such as Environmental Studies, Engineering, Geography, Sociology and Public Management in the early 1990s. According to the NDRMP, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management covers 4 areas: Prevention and Mitigation, Disaster Preparedness, Disaster Response and Rehabilitation and Recovery. While the field is interdisciplinary, principles of business management can well be applied for an effective and efficient civil service. Business techniques that analyze costs, efficiency, productivity and cost-effectiveness can be employed.
Recently, there also have been initiatives from Congress through the leadership of House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Congressmen Karlo Alexei Nograles, Xavier Jesus Romulado, Amada Espino and Joey Salceda to create a Disaster Management Department to replace the NDRMMC. These came as a result of President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) making a call to Congress to create a Disaster Management Department. This entails a value assessment of effective public management, specifically, pertaining to organizations, resources, programs, rules and information and communication. The effectiveness of disaster management efforts depend on the dynamics of interactions among mutually interdependent individuals and organizations at the community, local and national levels.
In the light of these developments, there is an ever more urgent need to systematize Disaster Risk Reduction as a body of knowledge. It calls for the development of a curriculum that will build the capacity of practitioners with knowledge and skills. I am privileged to take part in the conduct of the Master of Crisis and Disaster Risk Management program under the Philippine Public Safety College. In its third batch, this pioneering program has put together academics from leading universities such as the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila and De La Salle University to train professionals from private sector entities and local government units.
Mainstreaming of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management is also being done in the Basic and Higher Education through the establishment of Campus-Based Emergency Response Teams, Incident Command Systems and incorporation into the Curriculum specifically in the National Service Training Program (NSTP) subject. Disaster response such as water rescue, rescue management and high angle rescue are gradually being taught to NSTP Coordinators and Deans in schools nationwide by service providers.
I believe that with sustainable and persevering efforts from all levels of our society especially education, we are on our way to the goal of a“safer, adaptive and disaster-resilient Filipino communities toward sustainable development.”
Maria Victoria P. Tibon is an associate professor and Chair of the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University.