Salcedo leader urges government to adopt anticipatory action in DRRM

An emergency disaster preparedness meeting was held at the Municipal building together with the Inter-agency taskforce of Salcedo, on December 13, 2021. (Photo: Alren Beronio/Oxfam)

An emergency disaster preparedness meeting was held at the Municipal building together with the Inter-agency taskforce of Salcedo, on December 13, 2021. (Photo: Alren Beronio/Oxfam)

The coastal municipality of Salcedo, with a population of more than 22,000 people in its 41 barangays, is one of the areas in the province of Eastern Samar that is frequently hit by calamities, particularly typhoons. This requires its local government unit (LGU) to strengthen preparedness measures, including the readiness to provide immediate assistance to its constituents.

While every LGU in the Philippines is mandated by law to allocate a certain portion of its annual budget for disaster response, many still struggle to meet the needs of their constituents whenever a disaster strikes. This is especially true now that LGUs also have to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Luckily, the municipality of Salcedo—one of the poorest towns in the province with an annual income of just over P100 million, much of which is sourced from the national government's internal revenue allotment—is a partner in the Building Resilient, Adaptive, and Disaster Ready Communities (B-READY) project of Oxfam Pilipinas.

The B-READY project aims to prepare communities for natural disasters through the combination of weather forecasting and pre-emptive cash transfer technology.

The project is jointly implemented by Oxfam Novib, Oxfam Pilipinas, People’s Disaster Risk Reduction Network, PLAN International, PayMaya, Smart Padala, Global Parametrics, and the Local Government of Salcedo in Eastern Samar.

As part of the project, when typhoons are forecasted to be of a certain strength, pre-disaster cash assistance is given days before the typhoon to selected residents from the eight (8) vulnerable villages of the town.

Municipal Mayor Melchor Mergal, said he is grateful that Salcedo has been working with Oxfam Pilipinas as the pilot area for the B-READY project.

Mergal said that the project helps not only the communities but also the LGU itself.

“It’s a good idea,” he said. “It challenges the usual practice that assistance is given only after a disaster. We want to adopt that policy where assistance is given days before the typhoon’s landfall."

On December 14, the 391 households included in the B-READY project from the villages of Palanas, Buabua, Balud, Matarinao, Asgad, Burak, Butig, and Bagtong received anticipatory cash assistance worth P1,700 which they claimed via designated remittance centers.

Super typhoon Odette (international name: Rai) hit Salcedo on December 16 and affected more than 1.8 million families or 6.8 million people.

Mergal said the early release of the anticipatory cash assistance served its purpose. The project participants were able to buy essentials before the typhoon came.

“People were able to choose what to buy based on their needs, like food, medicines, or even construction materials to prop up their houses to withstand the coming typhoon,” he said.

municipal mayor said the assistance will make the communities less dependent on food assistance from the government, which usually consists of canned goods, noodles, and rice.

Back in 2013, when Super Typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) affected Eastern Samar, looting incidents were reported in the province because hungry residents were desperate for food and other essentials since government assistance had yet to arrive.

Now, with the B-READY project, this anticipatory action will help lead to behavioral change among the communities. The project will help them to prioritize their needs before and during a disaster situation.

"Immediately after the typhoon, they have food to eat,” Mayor Mergal said.

Mergal explained that the timeframe is based on a study which shows that it takes at least three (3) days for disaster victims to return to ‘normalcy.' The first two (2) days after a disaster is allocated for cleaning and repairing, while the third day is for getting back to work.

The project also helps the LGU, including its employees who are also vulnerable to disasters.

“With the pre-disaster cash assistance, our employees have more time to repair their houses or help their respective families during this time of a disaster,” the municipal mayor added.

Needless to say, the B-READY project has become part of the LGU's pre-emptive measures before typhoons hit Salcedo. Other disaster risk reduction programs of Salcedo include preparing food assistance; setting up risk reduction equipment and evacuation centers; and informing their residents of a looming disaster.

Mergal also said that the project helps the local economy.

“Imagine, with a big number of households in our municipality under the B-READY project, economic activity is created as they spend their money to buy food, among others, in our accredited stores. Our local business is thriving during this time,” he said.

Mayor Mergal said he has proposed to the national government—through the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Office of Civil Defense, and even to the United Nations—to adopt this kind of anticipatory action.

“Hopefully, this will be adopted by the national government as this will be a big help to local government units in terms of absorptive capacity and maximization of their limited resources,” Mergal said.

The town mayor expressed his gratitude to Oxfam Pilipinas and its local partners for working with Salcedo in the B-READY project.

“I see Oxfam as a partner for development and not just as a humanitarian partner,” Mayor Mergal said.

Aside from Salcedo, Eastern Samar, several other areas across the country were also affected by super typhoon Odette. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that as of January 2, 2022, the typhoon has resulted to 407 deaths, at least 78 missing people, and 1,147 injuries.

They need support to address pressing issues such as disrupted food supply in the market, lack of building materials for shelters, increased cases of diarrhea due to lack of clean water, lack of access to medicine, and difficulty to sustain minimum health standards for Covid-19 protection.

Oxfam and partners are providing immediate life-saving support to address water, sanitation, and hygiene assistance, food, and shelter needs to families in Palawan, Leyte and Southern Leyte, and Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte Province.