Sense Leads to Timeless Freedom
Thirty mayors, deputy mayors and a vice-governor got together
in Manila, April 25-26 for the “I Am Prepared”
seminar on good governance as mitigation and adaptive measure
to climate change. Climate change – whatever its
cause – is seen as the main cause of the increase in typhoons,
extreme rainfall, landslides and other disasters that have wreaked
havoc on the Philippines in recent years. On top of that local
officials have to deal with other natural disasters such as earthquakes.
How does good governance help in dealing with these disasters?
Commissioner Yeb Saño of the government’s
Climate Change Commission
urged the officials to enhance the adaptive capacity at the local
level. In fact, all that was needed would be common sense measures.
Infrastructure projects should be ‘climate proofed’
on long term cost-effectiveness and should be risk-based. He also
argued for using co-benefits: measures that should be taken anyway
even apart from climate change, such as social wellbeing, energy
and food security. He stressed that financial leakage through corruption
should be minimized as a priority. “Disasters can be prevented,”
he said, “Manage the unavoidable and avoid the unimaginable.
If that would happen a timeless freedom would be achieved.
Professor Dexter Lo of Xavier University gave a detailed
explanation of what happened during the Sendong typhoon disaster
that hit Cagayan de Oro in December 2011 killing almost 3000 people.
He explained that there is only a disaster if a hazard coincides
with vulnerability and exposure (e.g. population). “An earthquake
in an uninhabited part of the desert is not a disaster, but it is
in densely populated areas with badly constructed buildings. Mainstreaming
of disaster risk reduction is what is needed,” called Professor
In a panel discussion Bernd Liss of the
German Development Organisation (GIZ) told of his experience
that there is a discrepancy between regulatory framework and enforcement,
and between planning and implementation leading to a lack of continuity.
One of the main problems is land tenure, particularly how to provide
security of tenure. He also called on local officials to use the
potentials for creation of green jobs.
Matthieu Penot of the European Union Delegation
(EU) explained that the EU uses thematic budget lines.
Some of this focus on rewarding forest communities to protect forests
for carbon storage. “Hold mayors accountable for not taking
measures,” said Mr. Penot. Finally, David McCauley
of the Asian
Development Bank (ADB) put an emphasis on promoting clean energy.
He mentioned the example of electronic jeepneys and tricycles. He
also stressed that in drawing up local plans there are a number
of governance issues that need to be addressed.
Manuel Gotis of the
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) gave
an introduction to the existing National Risk Reduction Plans
and the Local disaster risk reduction and management fund (LDRRMF).
He stressed the criteria for benchmarking and tool for evaluation.
Pre-disaster preparedness gets special attention (70% of the fund).
Congressman Mel Sarmiento used his previous experience
in local government to guide the participants through different
options they have to enhance their disaster preparedness. He indicated
that an important element is the existing checklist for mayors.
Together with Cong. Sarmiento the participants went on to elaborate
these issues in working groups. The major risks identified were
landslides and flooding, their effects worsened by illegal logging
and mining. Three main problem areas were: lack of scientific info
in the area which is very costly, secondly that national agencies
are not responsive whereas their help is needed particularly in
hazard mapping, and finally the lack of info regarding ill effects
of illegal or wrong practices which lead to environmental devastation.
The working groups stressed the need of identifying fault lines
and development of geo hazard maps, establishing evacuation areas
and evacuation centers, convincing affected vulnerable communities
to relocate to less hazardous areas, establishing early warning
systems (such as sirens, church bells, mobile phone networks, radio),
purchasing initial stocks (medicine, food, water), training of first
responders, and the dredging of waterways. Some councils have made
positive experiences with the acquisition of barangay (village)
emergency response trucks. But lack of funding for projects remains
Towards the end of the seminar Arpee Santiago of
Ateneo Human Rights Centre
(AHRC) addressed the crucial issue of good governance. He explained
that climate change affects right to life, right to water, right
to health, right to shelter, right to culture and to self-determination.
Disaster preparedness must be approached from a human rights based
approach. What are the needs of your constituents? The community
needs to be consulted on what is good for them. It should not be
“us telling others what they need.” The victims are
not a general group, but vulnerable groups: women and children,
elderly and persons with disabilities, are especially hard hit.
It is therefore important to disaggregate the data and the approach
tailored to the relevant groups. An example is finding out the appropriate
early warning system for such vulnerable constituents.
Secretary Neric Acosta, Presidential Advisor on
Environmental Protection, closed the event by stressing the importance
of preparedness and called for a change in land use. His recipe,
the five “I”s: Information, Infrastructure,
Investments, Institutional (governance) and Integrity
The seminar was part of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for
Freedom (FNF) Philippines Office’s Freedom Academy programme.
FNF is a German foundation promoting good governance and freedom.
FNF Philippines Country Director Jules Maaten saw the seminar
as productive, “We are at the start of FNF’s climate
change project in the Philippines, and this gives us a good basis
for further projects.” He also added that “The impact
of good governance on adaptation to climate change is undeniable.
I would even say that it is crucial to disaster risk reduction.
These issues are not just technical, they are highly political.
This is about accountability, transparency, democracy and fighting