Monday, October 17, 2011

Responsive, participatory governance

Responsive, participatory governance
By Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos
Cebu Daily News
October 17, 2011

Congratulations to the Cebu city government and Mayor Michael Rama for the Gawad Pamana Award it received last week, together with 14 other cities, 15 provinces and 16 municipalities. A total of P91 million from the performance challenge fund was given to the awardees as incentive for transparent, accountable and participatory governance. The Gawad Pamana ng Lahi is given for the LGU’s “exemplary performance across major development initiatives in administrative governance, social governance, economic governance and environmental governance.”

In his speech during the ceremony, which was also the culminating activity of the 20th Local Government Code Anniversary, Interior and Local Government Secretary Robredo emphasized that the Code was not enacted to give power to local leaders, but was adopted because of “the belief that when they are measured on how they use their power, capacity, and resources, they will excel in their positions and serve their constituencies well.”

He also mentioned the need to review the Code and make it more responsive to the needs of the times, and to specifically address the dire effects of climate change. If the Local Development Councils are just activated in each barangay, city, municipality and province and a policy of inclusion is put in place, we will have a good fighting chance to surmount the impact of climate change.

It is rather alarming, however, that the minds of policy-makers are seemingly stuck in the financial aspect of disaster response and management and less on community engagement.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte’s comment that our country has enough funds for disasters (Philippine Daily Inquirer, Oct. 15) is rather presumptuous and lulls people to a false sense of complacency, which is by itself disastrous.

How can we possibly predict how much is needed for disaster management especially since the country is considered the third most vulnerable to disaster risks and calamities? Can one ever quantify the value of lives lost, the suffering and anxieties of displaced families and the so-called environmental refugees?

While funds are important, they are not everything. What is essential is to plan and collaborate as a community and together build resilience in responding to the climate crisis and protecting the most vulnerable, our children and the elderly. It is time to mobilize the participation of citizens in governance for them to be fully conscious of their role in disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM). Nothing beats prevention and preparedness.

The call of Mayor Rama for a multi-stakeholder consultative assembly is a step in the right direction. But it should not just focus on the flooding problem but look at the sustainability dimension including the community-initiated proposals to climate solutions and in “redefining development.” The city’s Sustainability Ordinance could help provide the framework for the expected robust discussion that will ensue.

Last Oct. 13, the International Day for Disaster Reduction was commemorated to heighten our awareness about our individual role in reducing risks due to disasters from earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and other calamities. Instead of waiting for a year, it is be best if we have more frequent and regular DRRM-awareness raising events to make it a part of our lifestyle.

I am sharing with you the 10-point checklist that LGUs and other stakeholders should take into account in undertaking a climate resiliency campaign, culled from http://www.unisdr.org, as follows:

1. Put in place organization and coordination to understand and reduce disaster risk, based on participation of citizen groups and civil society. Build local alliances. Ensure that all departments understand their role to DRRM.

2. Assign a budget for disaster risk reduction and provide incentives for homeowners, low-income families, communities, businesses and public sector to invest in reducing the risks they face.

3. Maintain up-to-date data on hazards and vulnerabilities, prepare risk assessments and use these as the basis for urban development plans and decisions. Ensure that this information and the plans for your city’s resilience are readily available to the public and fully discussed with them.

4. Invest in and maintain critical infrastructure that reduces risk, such as flood drainage, adjusted where needed to cope with climate change.

5. Assess the safety of all schools and health facilities and upgrade these as necessary.

6. Apply and enforce realistic, risk-compliant building regulations and land use planning principles. Identify safe land for low-income citizens and develop upgrading of informal settlements, wherever feasible.

7. Ensure education programmes and training on disaster risk reduction are in place in schools and local communities.

8. Protect ecosystems and natural buffers to mitigate floods, storm surges and other hazards to which your city may be vulnerable. Adapt to climate change by building on good risk reduction practices.

9. Install early warning systems and emergency management capacities in your city and hold regular public preparedness drills. 10. After any disaster, ensure that the needs of the survivors are placed at the centre of reconstruction with support for them and their community organizations to design and help implement responses, including rebuilding homes and livelihoods.


I am grateful to PDI and the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) for the distinct privilege of participating in the “Read-along Session” at the Visayan Electric Co. Reforestation Park Project at sitio Cantipla, barangay Tabunan, Cebu City last Saturday. The theme was caring for our environment and our biodiversity.

After the storytelling proper and being amazed by the highly participative kids and creative and enthusiastic fellow readers, we planted indigenous and native tree species in the area. According to Cris Evert Lato, it was the first time that the reading session was held as part of the closing ceremony of PBSP’s annual and 19th reforestation caravan at the Central Cebu Protected Landscape. PDI’s mascot, the cuddly Guyito, is now a reminder of the enriching moments that we shared last weekend with the kids and their mothers and our inspiring young green leaders.