AT least two local government units in the Zamboanga Peninsula have already declared a state of calamity due to El Niño. The first one was Zamboanga City then it was followed by the municipality Kabasalan in Zamboanga Sibugay. It is a possibility that soon the provincial government under the leadership of Gov. Wilter Palma will follow suit, hopefully.
By law, when disaster strikes the local government is the first responder. The Local Government Code of 1991 has mandated that it should be at the frontline in the delivery of emergency measures during disasters to protect the welfare of the constituents. Thus, it is incumbent upon for the local government units to be proactive by drawing up the needed framework to reduce the risk of disasters and calamities.
It is expected, therefore, that each local government has its own Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan (LDRRMP) addressing the four aspects of DRRM according to the framework from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). These four areas to be addressed are disaster preparedness, response, prevention and mitigation, and rehabilitation and recovery.
To carry this mandate, all local government units set aside at least five percent of their revenue as LDRRM Fund, 30 percent of which is set aside as Quick Response Fund (QRF).
Everything has been outlined by law. All what every local government unit needs is the initiative to be proactive in its response to any disasters or calamities.
The effects of El Niño, a weather pattern characterized by reduced rainfall, is clearly a cause for action. We took notice of the swift action of the city government of Zamboanga when it placed the entire city under a state of calamity. The action of the Sangguniang Bayan of Kabasalan town was also commendable because the situation calls for such action so that the local government can respond in a timely manner thereby safeguarding the general welfare of the people.
In a resolution passed by the local council of Kabasalan, for example, the local government sets aside the amount of P1,876,000 from the 30 percent QRF “to purchase equipment, farm inputs, and other materials to mitigate the effects of El Niño.”
Well and good.
The intention is good but what remains to be seen is how the local government will go about implementing it.
For one, to say that the effects of El Niño can be mitigated by purchasing “equipment, farm inputs, and other materials” does not rhyme in unless there are clear cut programs and strategies in place how to mitigate the situation. Although we trust that our local agriculture offices have already formulated these programs and strategies but, as experience had taught us that same trust was time and again was a misplaced one.
Another thing is this: this calamity happens at a time all local officials are gearing up for the May 13 elections. There is no guarantee that the calamity mitigating assistance to farmers will not be politicized. The greater risk, which no LDRRMC can reduce, is when these assistance and relief materials will become political tools to further the political interests of those in power.
This apprehension points to a greater state of calamity when aid, which is supposedly non-partisan, is weaponized by our politicians. It is a state of calamity indeed if that happens. (Antonio M. Manaytay-Mindanao Sun)