EU-funded project strengthens Cotabato village’s pre-disaster response

Being constantly submerged in floodwaters, farmers in Barangay Tamontaka 4 in Cotabato City have turned to fishing for their livelihood. They are among the recipients of cash assistance from the Strengthening Urban Preparedness through Pre-emptive Action (SUPPA) project in Mindanao. (Photo: Manman Dejeto / Oxfam)
 

A pre-disaster assistance project implemented by several non-government organizations (NGOs) in the Philippines has helped a flood-prone village in Cotabato City improve their early disaster response.

Noria Gapor, secretary of Barangay Tuan-a-Barakat (Tamontaka 4), hailed the Strengthening Urban Preparedness through Pre-emptive Action (SUPPA) project for strengthening the barangay government’s pre-disaster response with the cooperation of the constituents.

The village of Tamontaka 4 is home to at least 571 households consisting of 752 families. Many of them used to depend on corn and palay farming. But in the last few years, their farms have been almost permanently flooded, depriving them of their main source of livelihood.

As a large part of the village remained underwater, many farmers were forced to resort to fishing for livelihood.

Many of these families live on stilt houses, on homes with an elevated room or on two-story houses to protect their possessions from floodwater. Noria said she could no longer count the times flooding devastated their village and submerged the barangay hall.

At least 236 families in their village were chosen as beneficiaries of SUPPA, which is funded by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations and jointly implemented by Oxfam Philippines, Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, Inc. (IDEALS, Inc.), People's Disaster Risk Reduction Network, Inc. (PDRRN) and Humanity & Inclusion.

“The project paved the way for the adoption of an information protocol strongly supported by our constituents. If the water is rising and a flood is imminent, they would send us pictures for the barangay government to assess the next steps to take,” Noria said.

Noria Gapor, secretary of Barangay Tuan-a-Barakat (Tamontaka 4), outside their barangay hall in Cotabato City. Her village participates in the Strengthening Urban Preparedness through Pre-emptive Action (SUPPA) project in Mindanao. (Photo: Manman Dejeto / Oxfam)

 

The SUPPA project involves the release of cash assistance to project participants with flood warnings as the major trigger. Its aim is to save lives by helping people prepare food and medicine or secure their house before flooding happens. It also provides training and support for local government to improve disaster preparedness protocols and decrease the vulnerability of highly at-risk communities in Mindanao.

Flood signal warning levels have also been set up in strategic areas of the village to inculcate in the residents the value of disaster awareness and to guide their actions in relation to the warning level signals – whether it’s time to vacate their houses or just stay and continue to monitor the situation, Noria said.

The village official said that if they could not send pictures because they don’t have smartphones or access to the internet, others would personally come and inform barangay officials about the looming danger of flooding.

Noria said the barangay government ensures that health and safety protocols for the COVID-19 pandemic are strictly followed during the initial distribution or encashment of the multi-purpose cash transfer, as agreed with the SUPPA project partners.

She added that the barangay government even deployed some of its employees to ensure that health protocols are followed during the encashment of the beneficiaries of their cash grant.

Since the SUPPA project was rolled out last year, the beneficiaries received cash assistance four times already. The first cash grant of P5,000 was face-to-face, the second and the third through Palawan Pawnshop remittance, and the fourth through their PayMaya accounts.

Since some beneficiaries don’t know how to read or write, the barangay and PDRRN workers assist them in getting the money from Palawan Pawnshop, Noria recalled.

In selecting the beneficiaries, Jordan Taha, a PDRRN community organizer, said they sought the help of the barangay government since they are more familiar with the situation of the residents.

“There were times that we used a pump boat to validate beneficiaries identified by the barangay because their houses were no longer passable by vehicles,” Jordan recalled.

Jordan Taha, a PDRRN community organizer, validates the documents of a SUPPA beneficiary in Barangay Tamontaka 3, Cotabato City. The residents of this community are recipients of cash assistance from the Strengthening Urban Preparedness through Pre-emptive Action (SUPPA) project in Mindanao. (Photo: Manman Dejeto / Oxfam)
 

Noria emphasized that the SUPPA project tremendously helped the beneficiaries who are among the poorest of the poor in their village.

“What’s really good with the SUPPA project is that the cash assistance gets to the hands of the beneficiaries even before the disaster has yet to happen,” she said.

 

  • Houses on stilts are a common sight in Barangay Tamontaka 4, Cotabato City. The residents of this community are recipients of cash assistance from the Strengthening Urban Preparedness through Pre-emptive Action (SUPPA) project in Mindanao. (Photo: Manman Dejeto / Oxfam)

  • A signboard in Barangay Tamontaka 4, Cotabato City marks a flood-prone area in the village. The residents of this community are recipients of cash assistance from the Strengthening Urban Preparedness through Pre-emptive Action (SUPPA) project in Mindanao. (Photo: Manman Dejeto / Oxfam)

  • Personnel from People's Disaster Risk Reduction Network assist in the registration and setting up of electronic banking accounts of the Strengthening Urban Preparedness through Pre-emptive Action (SUPPA) project beneficiaries in Cotabato City. (Photo: Manman Dejeto / Oxfam)