(Part Three: Don’t fix what ain’t broke)
In Part 2, we rolled out the analysis of self-styled environmental expert Dean Tony La Vina on why the Aquino administration failed bigtime in responding to the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
Here is an executive summary:
A new reform law initiated under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the NDRRMC Act was created in May 2010, just as BS Aquino III was elected president.
La Vina correctly analyzed that instead of enforcing the new law, Aquino used his lame instincts to improvise.
The law provided for the Secretary of National Defense to chair the NDRRMC. Aquino supplanted this by instructing Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa (not Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin) to oversee the Yolanda response.
By so doing, he placed a civilian supervisor over the head of the administrator of DND Civil Defense who acts as the executive director of the NDRRMC. Worse, Ochoa had zero military training and only had previous government background of being the administrator of Quezon City.
This frustrated the purpose of the parallel mechanism of the new law to employ the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines, and its vast well-oiled structure, state-of-the-art equipment and best professionally trained personnel as the first responder implementing, outside of war, its constitutional mandate of protecting the people and securing the state.
Dean La Vina correctly cited that one of the serious causes of the post-Yolanda debacle was the failure to effectively pre-deploy the AFP and to use its communications facility between ground and central control.
Four synergistic clusters
The law has four clusters, each led by a vice-chair. One of which was disaster response to be led by the secretary of social welfare and development. Aquino designated Mar Roxas his interior and local government secretary to supplant the function of Dinky Soliman who had served for eight years as DSWD secretary to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2001-2005) and to Aquino (2010 to November 2013 when Yolanda struck).
Mar Roxas was barely a year in office as DILG secretary at that time, having served before as congressman and senator, and secretary of two cabinet positions, transportation and communications, and trade and industry.
In the NDRMMC cluster designation, the DILG secretary acts as vice-chair for disaster preparedness, repeat preparedness. The third and fourth clusters are the disaster prevention and mitigation headed by the science and technology secretary; and the disaster rehabilitation and recovery headed by the socioeconomic planning secretary.
But that is as far as I would go with Dean La Vina.
He thought the cluster designations presented a scenario called by Rappler as “too many cooks spoil the broth”.
So, it led him to the wrong prognosis of creating a single, permanent organization with the mandate, powers, and budget to oversee a singular, comprehensive, coordinated strategy for addressing natural and man-made disasters.
The trouble with this recommendation is that where President Aquino miserably failed, note carefully that his replacement President Duterte succeeded with flying colors, without any further empowerment added to the NDRRMC.
The premises La Vina built up was Aquino did not follow the procedure but his conclusion is “create another bureaucracy”.
This is the same Frankenstein, Senator Bong Go is presently tinkering, the creation of a separate department to be called the Department of Disaster Resiliency (DDR).
DDR after FEMA?
The DDR is a problem that being proposed to the solution that is already the NDRRMC.
Its proponents had boldly asserted that it is patterned after the Federal Emergency Management Agency of the United States.
But that is already what the NDRRMC is, but not a separate “department”. FEMA is under the Department of Homeland Security. It is housed there precisely to take advantage of the vast resources that Homeland Security inherently possess, and that is why the NDRRMC is under the Department of National Defense sharing not just its facilities but a P1.2 billion budget that is already tacked into DND’s Office of Civil Defense to avoid duplication of bureaucracy.
Yet FEMA’s utter failure to deliver first response and best practices when confronted by Hurricane Katrina, the worst to have faced the Americans, was not due to institutional dystrophy but like in Typhoon Yolanda, human error.
Twelve years after Katrina, experts say the flooding that caused over 1,800 deaths and billions of dollars in property damage could have been preventedhad the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers retained an external review board to double-check its flood-wall designs.
Fourteen years after Katrina, one lesson learned from Katrina was to increase the access of the press to FEMA employees, a strategy the agency uses to reach the public. In the decade-plus since, the agency has trained each employee to speak with the media, creating a more accessible flow of information during a crisis.
Lack of communication from base to control. Also, human error.
So, is there any move to promote the Federal Emergency Management Agency to a cabinet department?
If there were, the first thing it loses is its umbilical cord to the Department of Home Security, just as NDRRMC would lose its umbilical cord to the Department of National Defense, or its twinning with the Office of Civil Defense.
Let us not please fix something that ain’t broke!
Realities not conjectures
If we could not anticipate the accompanying storm surge that killed many as when Yolanda made its landfall, there was also no way to predict that the Louisiana levees would give way.
In the case of Katrina, the local government asked for 700 buses to take people out of harm’s way, FEMA sent only 100. So, without the buses to evacuate those who could not make it out on their own, people in New Orleans were told to go to the Superdome and the Convention Center.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said “80 percent” of the city was evacuated before the storm hit, but Bob Williams says that’s not good enough. The people still had to be fed and protected, but no sufficient sustenance or security were provided.
It took four days of Katrina’s landfall for President George W. Bush to order 7,200 National Guards to the region and sign a $10.4 billion aid package and. A few days later, he requested — and Congress approved — an additional $51.8 billion in aid.
Another similarity true to the Katrina and the Yolanda responses is the blame game. Federal officials said that in order to get involved, they must first be asked to do so by state authorities. As one FEMA told ABC News, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco failed to submit a request for help in a timely manner.
This reminds me of the statement of Mar Roxas a month after Yolanda, that if Mayor Alfred Romualdez wants to be in-charge, then Tacloban is on its own. Mar Roxas’arrogant exact words were “we can’t help you bahala na kayo sa buhay nyo.”
Roxas was making the mayor understand that he was “a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino…” maliciously highlighting the romanticized political feud between the Aquino family and the former first lady of President Marcos.
No matter how efficient the institutional design, if buffoons are in charge, the shit will hit the fan.
Efficiency 101 destroyed #DuterteMeltdown
A visibly irked President Rodrigo Duterte lashed out at Vice President Leni Robredo for her alleged “grandstanding” and criticism of the government’s response to the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses.
Robredo denies that she has anything to do with the “Nasaan ang Pangulo” public relations blitz to feign that she and not the President was the face of the recent spectacular disaster management success that met the triple-whammy Typhoons Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses.
But the signature of her daughters in their irresponsible twits burned her cover, and the follow-up Facebook claims of Antonio Trillanes made them worse.
“Nasaan ang Pangulo” is yet another weak copycat of the erstwhile “Oust Duterte” movement, of the Liberal Party and their local oligarchic and foreign neo-conservative funders and neo-liberal proxies, and yellow trolls spearheaded by Laurio Jover.
The code name of the black operations this time, was #DuterteMeltdown. But truth demolished its dirty tricks.
Reacting to Leni Robredo’s impetuous grandstanding that attempted to create optics that the military was moving mountains during the calamities under her directions, President Duterte only had to tell the truth:
“They (the military) did not need orders because they had already been deployed two days before. They were already deployed. Even the soldiers in Davao, my security [detail] was taken. Half of it was taken, brought here in anticipation of the typhoon,” he added.
Actually, the President was magnanimous.
The efficiency that Disaster Management 101 has shown since he came to office on his Day One on July 1. 2016, was started when he appointed Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as secretary of national defense.
Lorenzana’s first priorities was to make sure NDRRMC work like a clock without having to be wound only when a need arises. More than quartz technology, this retired major general is perhaps Duterte’s most important human resource hiring.
From the smallest typhoon to the largest, from a monumental human disaster that was the Siege of Marawi to the quiet equivalent of the local peace talks that is Balik-Loob Program, to proactive mission impossibles like modernizing the people and materiel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the gentleman and soldier outshines his peers in the President’s official family.
Zero casualty may be difficult given the nature of his work, but for Secretary Lorenzana, achieving a mission need not only be neutralizing the enemy, but making sure his team comes home safe and sound.
In the NDRRMC, that means preparedness 24/7 and 365 days in a year.
We shall discuss the finer points of Disaster Management 101 starting with Part IV next week.
(To be continued)