Community-Based Disaster Preparedness and Management
Perhaps, there is no better wake-up call than a disaster that has just occurred; especially one which resulted in the massive loss of lives and property. Such was the case for the LGU in Infanta, Quezon after flash floods swept away barangays in the municipality on November 29, 2004. The disaster galvanized the municipal government of Infanta and its communities to develop their own Community-based Disaster Preparedness and Management Program for the 60,209 residents. And what better way to prepare for disaster than by enjoining everyone to play their important part.
With the CBDPM in place, Infanta was able to coordinate with Search and Rescue teams during the occurrence of Typhoon “Reming” in Infanta in December 2006 and managed to rescue and evacuate a number of affected families. In the span of only three years, the LGU also managed to rehabilitate and repair municipal roads, bridges and other infrastructures damaged by the November 2004 flash floods. With the help of international and local NGOs and funding donors, the recovery period of local entrepreneurs, people’s organizations, farmers and fisherfolks was also shortened.
Infanta’s “community-based” approach to disaster preparedness and management has promoted self-reliance, especially within the first 24 hours of emergency response, while awaiting help from outside. By doing so, Infanta was able to organize and train individual residents, their families, their barangays, and their communities to respond appropriately to any disaster or emergency. The LGU also empowered small multi-sectoral “core groups” within the community (i.e., the reorganized and reactivated Municipal Disaster Coordinating Council, Special Committee on Agos River Rehabilitation and Flood Control, and Special Committee on Poblacion Area Drainage System) to plan, implement, monitor and sustain, in a participatory manner, any disaster preparedness and risk reduction program of the municipality.
The barangays were taught that their community could reduce the risks of natural hazards by reducing the vulnerabilities of their residents, implementing the four important Ps (Predict, Plan, Prepare, Practice), and focusing on their own community-based early warning and communication systems. Infanta also installed community-based early warning systems and established two-way radio communication between the barangays. It also conducted annual drills and exercises for flash flood, fire and earthquake preparedness. Representatives from the private sector and civil society organizations were encouraged to suggest, plan, prioritize and implement programs, projects and activities related to CBDPM.
Upon learning that concrete engineering interventions were introduced in Tarlac and Pampanga to protect their localities and residents, the SCARRFC launched a signature campaign requesting the national government to pay attention to the perennial threat of flash flood recurrence in Infanta and to allocate funds from the national coffers to construct flood control dikes along the banks of Agos river. In addition, the SCARRFC initiated several community mobilization or bayanihan activities (like sandbagging), which are designed to boost the sagging morale of the people of Infanta and to catch the attention of the national government.
The communities were able to lobby Malacañang officials for the release of PhP50M earmarked for the construction of slope protection structures and river rechanneling projects. The LGU also acquired additional reconditioned heavy equipment such as a bulldozer, dump trucks and backhoe through its 2006 Supplemental Budget amounting to PhP9M, which it employed for the Agos river rehabilitation and flood control, dredging of waterways and canals, and other development projects of the municipality.
To sustain its initiatives, the Municipal Development Council added the words “disaster-resilient citizenry” to Infanta’s municipal vision for the next 30 years. It meant the inclusion of CBDPM into the mainstream of good governance. As a result, a sizable budget is being allocated for DPM activities from the annual general fund and IRA (internal revenue allotment) of the LGU. Infanta has since been receiving a steady stream of visitors composed of officials from other LGUs, students, teachers, NGO workers, as well as foreigners. They hope to learn how Infanta was able to recover so fast from the disaster and how the LGU, in partnership with the community, is implementing its CBDPM program successfully. The invitation of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation for Infanta to share their experience on CBDPM to an international audience in Kyoto is further testament to the success of the project.