Responding to the call of President Ferdinand ‘BongBong’ Marcos, Jr., Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin ‘Benhur’ Abalos, Jr. vowed to accelerate the Department’s efforts to strengthen barangays’ preparedness in responding to disasters and other emergencies to avert loss of life and assets as the Philippines tops the World Disaster Risk Index 2022.
“The President has instructed me to assure each and every one of you that this administration is committed to ensuring that the smallest yet one of the most important units of government are fully capacitated and responsive to the needs of the people, especially in their disaster response capabilities,” Abalos said during the 2nd Barangay Resilience Exchange 2022 (BRX2022) Digital Conference.
Organized by the Cebuana Lhuillier Foundation, Inc. (CLFI), the BRX2022 banners the theme “Ang Handang Barangay, Mahusay!” that highlights the significance of collaboration between the government, private and multi-sectoral organizations, and the community in surviving natural disasters, calamities and emergencies.
Abalos said the DILG, as the Vice Chair for Disaster Preparedness of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), seeks to equip barangays with the necessary knowledge, skills, and capacities to manage and reduce disaster risks to become disaster prepared and resilient Filipino communities.
“Isa po iyan sa ating mga prayoridad – ang mapataas ang kahandaan ng mga barangay pagdating sa pagresponde sa mga panahon ng sakuna at iba pang mga emergency,” he added.
Barangays’ primary duties in disaster resilience include the establishment and operationalization of the Barangay Risk Reduction Management Committees, the development of barangay disaster risk reduction and management plans, and the allocation of funds for disaster response and recovery.
To increase LGUs’ capacity, Abalos said the Department will persist in the implementation of Operation LISTO, its flagship disaster preparedness advocacy program cascaded to the barangay level through the Listo si Kap!, a checklist of pro-active actions taken as preparatory and necessary measures based on the manual of higher LGUs and the disaster preparedness minimum standards.
He also said the DILG is conducting several assessment activities to gauge the performance of local government units (LGUs), including the barangays, in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management-Climate Change Adaptation (DRRM-CCA) in order to ensure that gaps are addressed and good practices are replicated.
“For the barangays, there is an ongoing development to assess the functionality of BDRRMCs and 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,” he said.
The DILG Secretary also said the Department’s National Barangay Operations Office (NBOO) and other bureaus and offices continue to work hand-in-hand to enable access to finance and ensure that barangays, even being the smallest LGU, are given a big share of the Department’s projects, programs and activities (PPAs) for the local government sector.
“Inatasan na rin natin ang Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) upang tumulong sa training ng mga barangay officials upang mapataas ang kanilang kapasidad,” he added.
The World Risk Index is an annual report that calculates disaster risk for 193 countries covering vulnerability from earthquakes, hurricanes/typhoons, floods (both coastal and riverine), drought, sea-level rise, tsunamis, and conflict. It dates back to 2011 and is published by the Bundnis Entwicklung Hilft and the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict at Ruhr University Bochum.
Meanwhile, Abalos highlighted the crucial role the barangays played in epitomizing the resilience of Filipinos during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when they became the first line of defense in the communities against the virus and had to serve their constituents and address the situation with their available resources and manpower.
“To put it simply, they are the unsung heroes of the pandemic, the gallant men and women who put their safety at risk in the name of serving the people amid seemingly insurmountable challenges,” he said.