Last June 27, the newly elected mayors of Regions IX to XIII visited the home base of Project NOAH in the National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS), University of the Philippines Diliman, to participate in the orientation of local chief executives. Before the mayors took their seats in their respective posts, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) invited them to the Local Government Academy. This was the final installation of the DILG LGA’s program, Basic Orientation: First 100 Days, given to local chief executives (LCEs) prior to their assumption to office. The Academy conducted orientations for the first-time municipal LCEs in four batches catering to different regions, the first three of which were conducted in the Office of Civil Defense (OCD).
The leg of the program held in NIGS was about Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) and how to cooperate with other national key agencies and organizations in disaster scenarios. Talks were spearheaded by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and were then followed by representatives from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), including Project NOAH.
NDRRMC introduced to the new mayors their mandate as a policy-making body, enabled by the Republic Act 10121. They were assigned to make a new framework which they accomplished in 2011. This framework, as explained to the mayors, is a paradigm shift in the way people, communities and government think, act and respond. From old practices in the 1970s where Disaster Risk Response had a top-to-bottom approach, the shift in paradigm highlights the contrary, a bottom-up approach. This is where the speakers bridge to the LCEs how important their roles are in a successful disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts.
Empowering the local community in times of disaster was an advocacy of DILG and NDRRMC, and they were quick to point out that this need not be limited to emergency fund access. Technology has come a long way, to a point where capable researchers now use scientific methods to study and correctly identify areas susceptible to hazards. It is a proactive stance, acknowledging the importance of prevention rather than responding to a situation when it is too late. In times of preparation, Project NOAH for its part, has also provided another useful tool for the local government units called WebSAFE. This tool, like the hazard maps, is easily accessible to the public, as it is now part of the NOAH website. With the use of crowdsourced data, it automatically computes the basic needs of the community in times of emergency. Mayors were very receptive to WebSAFE as it gave them the ability to take a calculated approach in making decisions during disasters. On their part, they have vowed to provide data from their localities.
DRR in the Philippines has come a long way since 2011. In its framework, there is now focus in prevention and mitigation which is achieved by scientific means. Tapping the help of Project NOAH in hosting the DRR leg of the Local Government Academy, affirms its role in promoting the bottom-up approach.