Message of DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos, Jr. at the Barangay Resilience Exchange 2022
(Delivered last October 14, 2022)
First of all, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. wishes to convey his utmost apologies for not being able to grace this gathering. Nevertheless, he shares our mission of strengthening the preparedness of our barangays in responding to sustain and other emergencies. The President has instructed me to assure each and every one of you that this administration is committed in ensuring that the smallest, yet one of the most important units of government is fully capacitated and responsive to the needs of the people.
The Crucial Roles Barangays Play in Building Resilience
The Barangays best exemplify their crucial roles in epitomizing the resilience of Filipinos when the COVID19 Pandemic hit the country. Sa totoo lang, personal sa nakikita ko, we have a very unique system. Sa buong mundo, tayo lang ‘yung may Barangay system. Kaya ang paghawak talaga natin talagang macro-managed — alam ng mga kapitan, mga kagawad kung sino-sino ang mga dapat asikasuhin.
During the early stages of the Pandemic, when even the national government was still trying to put into place its emergency and long-term response programs, the Barangays had to address the situation themselves to their available resources and manpower. The task of managing the constituents of the Barangay as the COVID-19 ravished the country was instantly put on the shoulders of our Barangay officials, the Barangay frontliners, which included the Barangay officials and Tanods.
The barangay Disaster Risk Reduction Management Committee, the Public Safety Officers, Traffic Enforcers and other Barangay-based institutions acted as our first line of defense against the virus as they played the role of marshals, contact tracers, emergency responders, navigators and other roles as they manage the community quarantine enforcing the COVID-19 related health standards and other activities.
To put it simply, they are the unsung heroes of the pandemic, the gallant men and women who put their own safety at risk in the name of serving the people amid seemingly insurmountable challenges. And as for disaster resilience, the primary roles of the Barangay include the establishment and effectiveness of the Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction Management Committees. Kasama rin sa mga tungkulin ng barangay ang pagbuo ng barangay disaster risk reduction and management plan at ang paglalaan ng pondo para sa disaster response and recovery efforts.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) as a Vice Chair for Disaster Preparedness of the National Disaster Risk Direction and Management Council, advocates for collaboration and inter-operability both horizontally and vertically and aims to contribute to the primary goal of averting the loss of lives and assets due to threats and emergencies.
Specifically, by capacitating local government units to be disaster prepared and resilient local government units and communities. Isa po iyan sa ating mga prioridad, ang mapataas ang kahandaan ng mga barangay pagdating sa pagresponde sa panahon ng sakuna at iba pang mga emergency. Inatasan na rin natin ang Bureau of Fire Protection upang tumulong sa training ng mga Barangay officials upang mapataas ang kanilang kapasidad.
The departments also adopt a three-pronged approach in creating adaptive and disaster resilient LGUs. Number one, assessment. Number two, capacity enhancement and number three, enabling access to financing.
There are several assessment activities conducted by the different bureaus of the department to gauge the performance of the LGUs in DRRMCCA area. The results of the assessment activities shall inform the crafting of various capacity development programs to be offered and implemented by the LGUs to ensure the performance gaps are addressed and capitalized and be able to replicate the good practices of the LGUs.
Lastly, the department also opens access to some financing opportunities that are tried with assessment and level of capacities of the LGU’s. For the Barangays, there is an ongoing development to assess the functionality of BDRRMCs at the initial stage of the implementation of the Seal of Good Local Governance for Barangays, which looks into disaster risk reduction and management as one of its core areas.
The Department of the National Barangay Operations Office and its other bureaus and offices continue to work hand in hand to ensure that the barangays, even being the smallest LGU are given a big share of the DLG’s PPAs for the local government sector. The Department ensures that the Barangays are functioning pursuant to their mandates.
The DILG implements the Operation Listo as an advocacy program of a IDLG which aims to strengthen the disaster preparedness of LGUs using the whole-of-government approach, part of which is to standardize local protocols and platforms for early preparedness, response, and monitoring duties.
In line with this, the DILG aims to bring this down to the barangay level as we are now currently developing Operation Listo. This consists of list of proactive actions by the community which should be taken as preparatory and necessary measures aligned with the Operation List of higher LGU and absorbance of the Disaster Preparedness Minimum standards.
In addition to this, the Operation Listo will provide guidance to marine guides not only for extreme weather events, particularly typhoons, but will also cover necessary actions to deal with the effects of health emergencies such as the COVID-19 Pandemic
Lessons Learned From the COVID-19 Pandemic
The whole world was caught off guard by the COVID-19 as it became the biggest health disaster in recent memory. The battle against COVID-19 required all the stakeholder’s cooperation and willingness to play their respective roles in the society. The Interagency Task Force on COVID-19 best exemplifies the different government agencies’ collective efforts and cooperation to form one effective team implementing initiatives related to the government’s efforts to contain the pandemic. The DILG as member agency of the IATF understood its defined roles and tasks as a member of the IATF. Collaboration with other agencies and sectors enabled the DILG to effectively produce its outputs during the Pandemic.
It has been proven that the challenges brought about by the Pandemic is better addressed by collective efforts and contributions from the different agencies and sectors. A group working as a team is more effective. The relationship between the agencies and the IATF motivated them to be more productive.
One of the major lessons that can be taken from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and are applicable in the preparation for future disasters is to be able to act swiftly and accurately. Another lesson will be the importance of data-driven policy. As much as this is important during the pandemic, the same is also true for disasters. It is only when we have intelligent data that we are able to make some of the effective decisions and prompt actions.