Editorial—Allocating Calamity Funds for Flood Protection of Philippine Critical Infrastructure
Andreas Klippe Comments September 9, 2021
How safe is the Philippine critical infrastructure? Is it always ready to stand against calamities like floods?
In an interview with Rappler, National Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Council (NDRRMC) Spokesperson Mark Timbal remembered his experience when tropical storm Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) ravaged Eastern Visayas on November 8, 2013, leaving over 6,000 dead and about 1800 missing.
Timbal said that the transportation of equipment and supplies was hindered at that time, because all entry points were closed. Airplanes couldn’t touch down at the airport as a lot of scattered remains were on the tarmac. It was totally a “logistical nightmare” as Timbal called it.
The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. Hence, airports are just among the elements of the critical infrastructure that are at risk whenever one occurs. Not to mention the number of climate-related disasters has risen nearly 35% since the 1990s.
Despite all that, it doesn’t seem that the Philippine critical infrastructure is important, that the incapacitation and destruction of its elements will cause the national public health or safety to weaken.
Because in the aid sector, time and money are still spent on response, as if it is unknown that every November and December tropical cyclones hit the country and bring heavy rainfall and flooding. But we know it!
Instead of reserving money for responding after a cyclone strikes, we should make it available earlier and for long-term solutions. Therefore, spending money once and in advance on solutions that can safeguard the infrastructure for long is better than on repetitive rehabilitation caused by flooding damage.
So how important is critical infrastructure that we need to prioritize it?
Critical Infrastructure and Its Importance
Critical infrastructure comprises the boundless network of highways, linking bridges and tunnels, railways, utilities and buildings needed to continue the normality in daily life. Transportation, electric power, communications systems, financial institutions, and oil and gas supply are the elements that rely on the network. They all reach into every facet of society.
Some of the elements are so critical that their incapacitation and destruction could weaken, if not the nation itself, an entire region. So continuous operation of these elements is essential to the safety and welfare of a country.
These elements were once impartially independent. Nowadays, they are increasingly linked, which is why they have created new vulnerabilities, particularly physical and electronic disruptions. A dysfunction in any one may have consequences in the others.
What in the past would have been an isolated failure due to, for example, torrential rains and floods could result in widespread disturbance today. However, it is avoidable as long as solutions are out there!
If it is protection from destructive floods that the critical infrastructure needs to maintain the operation of the elements, it shouldn’t be a problem to allot funds for it. If it is a matter of danger to national security and well-being, the citizens will certainly be all for it.
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund
RA 10121 or “Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010” aims to have a framework for risk mitigation, programs for quick responses during disasters, and recovery thereafter.
It has provisions for National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF) and Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (LDRRMF).
The NDRRMF serves the same purpose as the LDRRMF. The President of the Philippines decides the amount to distribute to the local government units (LGUs) or other government agencies.
Department of Budget and Management (DBM) reported that P5.14 billion in the 2020 NDRRMF, known as calamity fund, remained unreleased as of March 31. Then, the entire P20 billion set aside under 2021’s calamity fund was untouched as of end-March as well.
Therefore, from the 2020 and 2021 national budgets, a total of P25.14 billion in calamity funds remained unused as of March this year, pending approval on some levels in government, including the Office of the President.
A Portion of Calamity Funds for Philippine Critical Infrastructure
How much NDRRMF is still available for use as of today? We don’t know that, but November and December are approaching. Another Yolanda might strike the country—its critical infrastructure. Further, we might spend the funds again on response, not on preparation.
In the aid sector, time and money are still spent on response, as if it is unknown that every November and December tropical cyclones hit the country and bring heavy rainfall and flooding.
In fact, November hasn’t come yet, but the Southwest Monsoon (Philippine name: Habagat) brought rains in August. It damaged the infrastructure, specifically roads and flood control structures. As of August 2, 2021, the damage was at PHP1.17 billion.
Imagine, the flood control structures themselves are prone to high-cost damage. This implies that we should consider sharing a portion of calamity funds with Philippine critical infrastructure’s cost-effective solutions. Through this, we can avoid further damage.
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