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P’Noy asked to release early P32.1 B DRR funds to ‘highly at risk’ LGUs

Pres. Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III was asked on Wednesday to order the release of some P32.1 billion funds related to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) to make highly vulnerable cities and communities more resilient to disasters and climate change.

As the highest official of the land, Pres. Aquino can make disaster risk reduction and management on top of his priority list starting with the release of such funds. These funds from various departments and agencies should be made available early within this year since these are part of the approved 2011 National budget.

The call was made by RESILIENCE: Nurturing Disaster-Ready Cities and Communities and the La Liga Policy Institute (La Liga) following the 2nd workshop for an integrated DRR plan conducted by the Alliance of Seven LGUs (A7) held in Antipolo City recently.

The workshop happened days before Tropical Storm “Falcon” caused massive flooding in Luzon, including Metro Manila and some parts of Visayas and Mindanao.

Tropical depression “Falcon”, the sixth weather disturbance this year, left three people dead and 18 others missing. The Philippines experiences an average of 18 to 20 typhoons in a year.
A7, composed of Marikina, Pasig, Antipolo and Quezon City, the Municipalities of Cainta, Rodriguez and San Mateo, has partnered with RESILIENCE and La Liga to boost the resilience of the LGUs through disaster prevention in times of natural calamities such as typhoons that trigger flashfloods.

As part of its climate-sensitive budget advocacy, La Liga identified available funds in the 2011 National Budget that can be tapped by LGUs for disaster risk reduction programs. For disaster vulnerabilities, capacities and needs assessment, the groups have listed down programs with total funds of P5.7 billion from which the A7 can seek funding support; P16.2 billion for early warning systems and disaster contingency planning, P5.8 billion for reforestation and sustainable agriculture; and P4.4 billion for resettlement.

Such funds can be sourced from the 2011 budgets of key national line agencies namely Climate Change Commission under the Office of the President, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Department of National Defense (DND), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

Low-lying areas of A7 member-LGUs were not spared from the wrath of “Falcon” but the damage was very minimal, which some quarters say, is because of the preparations made by the local officials after the September 26, 2009 onslaught of the tropical storm “Ondoy.”

Horacio “Boy” Morales, president of RESILIENCE said that since A7 member-LGUs are already aware of the critical role of DRR, they were quick to respond to the situation during the heavy downpour over the past three days that caused severe flooding in low-lying areas of Metro Manila and some parts of Luzon, thereby preventing tragic loss of lives.

Morales said “Falcon”, a tropical storm as classified by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) did not even made landfall yet the flooding experienced in highly vulnerable areas are so severe that many families had to be rescued and brought to higher grounds for their safety.

“We should be more prepared for the next deluge. We must be ready to deal with more intensifying typhoons and more disastrous floods such as the ones triggered by Ondoy. The key to effective DRR is updated and reliable risk and hazard information, integration of national and LGU plans and predictable financing in order to enhance the adaptive capacity and increase the resilience of LGUs and communities,” Morales said.

Roland Cabigas, managing director of La Liga said the recent flooding demonstrated the vulnerability of resource-poor LGUs in coping with the situation.

During typhoons, Cabigas said emergency evacuation of people living in low-lying areas is crucial in preventing tragic loss of lives. “As we anticipate more typhoons, these DRR interventions will further strain the already dwindling resources of LGUs that may eventually lead to LGUs not having the resources to conduct such critical operations,” he said.

“This highlights the need for an effective and integrated DRR plan that will make cities and municipalities more resilient and able to reduce and manage the risks of disasters such as floods. While LGUs are currently allocating actual funds for DRR, the national government must complement these by releasing the allocated funds for DRR on time and without further delay.” (La Liga Policy Institute)

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