Lakbay Aral 2014: Speech at Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas Marinduque Chapter, City State Hotel

23 September 2014

20140923 Lakbay Aral 2014 Speech Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas Marinduque Chapter_City State Hotel

Thank you very much for having invited your Senate Local Government Committee Chairman to join you, my dynamic partners in local government, especially the Barangay officials of Marinduque Province. I laud your efforts in organizing this event and in assembling the Barangay officials of the province, as a sign that the people of Marinduque truly recognize the importance and essential role of the Barangay in our nation-building.

We are all very fortunate that our event was scheduled just a few days after tropical storm Mario hit Metro Manila. Or else, kung nagkataon na sumabay ito kay bagyong “Mario”, instead of being mere passive participants at this chapter meeting, you could have been tapped as more active and hands-on participants: particularly, as volunteers in the rescue and relief efforts not only here in Metro Manila, but also in my home province of Ilocos Norte! Alam ninyo naman siguro na kailangan na kailangan namin ng tulong ngayon hindi lamang dito sa Metro Manila, kundi pati doon sa Ilocos Norte! At sino pa nga ba ang naaasahan at tinatawagan sa mga ganitong sakuna, kundi ang ating mga BARANGAY OFFICIALS! What could be a more memorable and more meaningful “Lakbay Aral” than that?

1) Disaster Risk Reduction & Management (DRRM)

They say that all these calamities we are experiencing are due to climate change, and the negative effects have turned out to be of devastating proportions and, worse, threatening our very survival and continued existence.

We may not be a big contributor to global carbon dioxide emissions, but we are not spared from this phenomenon of climate change. In fact, Philippines is in the Top 5 disaster-hit countries in the world. Yes, my friends, when it comes to disasters, we are topnotchers! And this is no laughing matter for us to take lightly.

According to statistics, dumami na ang mga bagyong dumarating. But the strongest ones come during the last three “Ber” months (October-December). And half of the deadliest and most destructive typhoons ever recorded in our recent history have happened in the months of November and December. Typhoons Ike (1984), Uring (1991), Reming (2006), and Yolanda (2013) all happened in November; while Sendong (2011) and Pablo (2012) happened in the month of December.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are now in the “Ber” months! Sa katunayan, nasampolan na tayo ni Luis at ni Mario! At marami pa ang tiyak na darating!

Napakaswerte naman talaga ng Pilipinas!

On this note, please allow me to share a few points.

First, our present disaster management system called the “Disaster Risk Reduction and Management” or DRRM, calls for strategies that aim not only to reduce disaster itself, but also to reduce the risks of disaster. It takes the term “disaster-preparedness” to a whole new level, because now it calls for a complete understanding of the bigger picture based on the causal factors of disasters, including our community’s exposure to hazards and vulnerability to disasters, and likewise involves the judicious planning of our land and the environment.

Ngayon, hindi lamang ang “disaster” ang ating dapat alalahanin. Mula sa “risk” pa lamang ay dapat na nating bantayan at pag-aralan.

Naaalala ko tuloy yung paliwanag ng taga-DOST-Project NOAH noong nag-lecture sila sa Senado tungkol sa pagkakaiba ng “risk” at ng “disaster”. Inihambing niya ang pagkakaiba ng dalawang konsepto sa isang sitwasyon ng mag-asawa. Ang “RISK” daw ay yung panganib na kaakibat ng pagkakaroon ng isang lalaking may-asawa ng isang kalaguyo o kabit.

Iba naman daw ang “DISASTER”. Ang “DISASTER” daw ay ang maaaring mangyari kung mahuhuli ng asawa ang lalaki sa akto na may kalaguyo! Kapag nahuli na, DISASTER! Meron bang natatamaan sa inyo?

Our present law advocates reducing the risks of disasters, and not just managing the effects of disaster, after disaster has struck. Sa ating halimbawa, ang stratehiya ay hindi na lamang kung paano bibgyang-lunas ang epekto ng pagkakahuli ng asawa sa akto na may kalaguyo: susuyuin ba nito ang asawa, hihingi ba ng tawad, yayayaing manood ng sine, magbibigay ba ng peace offering? Ngayon, ang stratehiya dapat ay ang pag-iwas mismo sa “risk”, o ang pag-iwas mismo sa tukso na magkaroon ng kalaguyo! It calls for a total change in the mentality, attitude and lifestyle of the husband. Dapat ay maging tapat sa asawa habambuhay! Tama ako, ‘di ba?

In short, it calls for a systematic approach, which is deemed best achieved through the tried-and-tested approach of community-based planning, efficient interaction, coordination, combination and mutual assistance, between and among the government, on both the national and local levels, and the essential parts of the community, including the citizens, businesses and civil society organizations (CSOs).

And at the heart of this approach we find the indispensable and essential local government units, down to the very microcosm—the BARANGAYS. Rightly so, not only because the LGUs have unparalleled ground knowledge about the topography and terrain of their respective territories and other essential information, but more importantly because they have been mandated by the Local Government Code to draw up their comprehensive development plans (CDPs) and comprehensive land use plans (CLUPs), which will serve as the basis for the national government for overall analysis, planning, guidance and implementation on the macro level. And with the advent of the Climate Change Act and the NDRRM Law, our LGUs are now required to also identify their peculiar and local risks and vulnerabilities and consolidate the information in the form of climate change action plans, local DRRM plans, local risk maps, and the like.

As a result of this bottom-up planning, the national government is fed with essential information on how to formulate the national framework for purposes of national planning, as a basis for a top-down delivery of basic services. Moreover, the national government is given an idea of how to budget and allocate resources more efficiently and effectively.

When I visited the Yolanda-stricken areas of my mother’s home province of Leyte, I was able to judge first-hand what we should look out for in our planning for the future. We knew how important it was to ensure food and water security, and the integrity of our critical food storage facilities and water systems, and provisions for emergency and alternative power supply. We realized the need to continue modernizing PAGASA. We realized the importance of availability of emergency transport, our crowd and mob control techniques to prevent the incidence of looting and stampedes, our emergency law enforcement systems, our evacuation centers, etc. We also have to improve our first-aid capabilities, disease control and prevention, our system of cadaver retrieval, identification, preservation, storage and burial. Also important is ensuring the resilience of our infrastructure and buildings.

And the list goes on and on. Napakarami ang dapat nating alalahanin!

Also, as our Yolanda experience demonstrated, LGUs should now consider linking up with adjacent or nearby LGUs for mutual assistance, as well as for pre-positioning of emergency goods and services, if need be. As we all know, the national government is stationed in Manila, so there are inherent distance, time and manpower constraints in its response and rescue efforts. Dapat ang mga magkakaratig na mga LGUs ay mas lalong nagtutulungan sa panahon ng sakuna at kalamidad.

When I went to Tacloban, I saw how shell-shocked and paralyzed the human being can become as a result of a disaster. But if we institutionalize this system and make it second-nature to us, should hazard and disaster strike, hindi na magiging “bara-bara” o “bahala na”-attitude ang ating mga kilos at pagresponde. Planado at systematic na tayo. The embedded system would help tide us over and sustain us, as we get ourselves back to our feet and regain our composure and equanimity.

“Yes, we understand all that”, you may say. But where shall we get the resources to be able to do our part in this whole exercise? Most of you will say: “SHOW ME THE MONEY!”

Fortunately, the government is putting money where its mouth is. To give you a clear idea about the seriousness of the government in all these efforts, consider our national budget. For Fiscal Year 2014, meron tayong P13B para sa NDRRM Fund, sa paghahanda at sa paglunas ng kalamidad. For 2015, the President has proposed to Congress a P14B allocation for the NDRRM Fund.

We also have this so-called Quick Response Fund (QRF), which have been apportioned to certain vital government agencies such as DA, DepEd, DOH, DND, DPWH, DSWD, DOTC, as a “stand-by fund for relief and recovery programs”. For 2014, the QRF totaled P5B; whereas, for 2015, the Executive has proposed to Congress a P6.5B allocation for the QRF.

And there is also this so-called Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program Fund, for which the amount P20B was allocated in 2014.

Hiwalay pa ito sa budget na P670M ng Office of Civil Defense para sa disaster management operations, at sa budget na P576M ng DILG para sa LGU capacity enhancement. And of course, these funds are separate from the LGUs’ own funds and direct allocations from the national government, as well as from the donations that poured in from within the country and from the international community.

This means na may pera na nilaan ang gobyerno para rito sa DRRM!

So let me take this opportunity therefore to exhort the LGUs to really be proactive, efficient and responsive in this whole exercise, in this whole system of planning, coordination and implementation. Don’t stop making “kulit” and making “kalampag” the national government for attention and technical and financial assistance on this very urgent matter, in order to equip and capacitate our own LGUs and our own barangays. Inuulit ko, may pondo tayo para rito! In fact, for purposes of fund release and utilization, LGUs are authorized as “implementing agencies” for infrastructure projects not exceeding P10M, subject, of course, to compliance with certain requirements.

2) Retirement benefits for Barangay officials, workers and volunteers

Now, all of these discussions about the crucial frontline role of the Barangay in DRRM and in daily community life lead to this all-important issue.

Mula sa mga away-magkapitbahay dahil sa maingay na videoke, mga rambol, mga nakawan, mga kasuhan dahil sa utang at nawawalang mga sampay o mga alagang hayop, problema sa droga at mga sari-saring gulo, hanggang sa mga kalamidad at mga sakuna sa Barangay, ang ating mga Barangay officials, workers at volunteers ang naririyan na direktang nakasabak, tumutugon at namamagitan sa kaguluhan at problema.

Sa kakarampot na suweldo at benepisyo na binibigay sa kanila, sulit ba ang public service na kanilang ginagampanan? For me, it is not enough. And I am certain that my fellow lawmakers in both Houses of Congress will agree with me.

For the brave and selfless work of our Barangay officials in sacrificing their lives and limbs in the frontline of disaster management efforts in the locality, the government has put in place a special fund for death benefits in the amount of P50M. But again, to me and to most of my colleagues in the Legislature, this is not enough. Kailangan pa ba munang mamatay ng ating mga magigiting na Barangay officials bago sila makatamasa ng benepisyo sa gobyerno?

At higit sa lahat, paano naman ang iba pang mga nagtatrabaho at volunteers sa Barangay, ang ating mga tanod, mga miyembro ng Lupon ng Tagapamayapa, mga Health workers at mga Day Care workers? Sila rin naman ay nagsasakripisyo para sa kanilang mga kabarangay!

It is in recognition of this perceived social injustice, considering the dangers inherent to their office and responsibilities, that I have taken the lead in the Senate to enact a law granting retirement benefits to Barangay officials and workers, including the tanods, members of the Lupon ng Tagapamayapa, health workers and day care workers. In so doing, we can do justice to our Barangay officials and workers by way of ensuring that they are compensated for the invaluable service rendered should they outlive the dangers concomitant to their jobs.

Malapit na tayo sa ating inaasam na pagkakapasa nito bilang isang ganap na batas. I have made and submitted my committee report, and I am just awaiting comments, questions and amendments from my colleagues in the Senate. I am confident that my fellow Senators cannot and will not downplay the importance and urgency of this measure.

I just hope and pray that the President of our Republic is equally cognizant of the need for this measure, in the same way that I, and most of our legislators, do. But rest assured that I will continue to be at the forefront of the efforts to make this a reality. Otherwise, it would be a great disservice to our noble Barangay officials, workers and volunteers, whom I have worked with and whom I have depended on during my stint as a local executive in the province of Ilocos Norte, and whom I continually work with and depend on, as a national legislator.

Well, I guess I have said enough. So let me end by again thanking all of you for inviting me to your “Lakbay Aral 2014”. It is truly an honor and privilege for me to join you on this occasion! Sana tunay na mayroon tayong mapupulot na mga aral sa okasyon na ito.

I look forward to more of these enriching and thought-provoking discussions in the future! Although of course, we do not want to look forward to more occurrences of environmental hazards and disasters!

May God help the Philippines and the Filipino people!

Mabuhay ang Marinduque chapter ng Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas!

Mabuhay ang mga magigiting na opisyal at kawani ng mga Barangay sa lalawigan ng Marinduque!

Maraming, maraming salamat po!