Thursday, October 29, 2009

The GTZ Project

As reported earlier, consultants of the German Technical Cooperation paid a courtesy call on the City Officials to brief them on the 3-year Urban Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Project in Calbayog City. As per letter by Mr. Allen Molen, the Program Adviser of DRM Environment and Rural Development Program, the said project was approved by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Develompent (BMZ).

Here are some details / background of the said project taken from the "Appraisal Report and Framework for Disaster Risk Management in Urban Areas in Region VII", a material provided by Mr. Mollen:

In July 2009, GTZ was commissioned by BMZ to review the develpment-oriented emergency and transitional aid project Disaster Risk Management in cities, Philippines. The appraisers were in the Philippines from 20 June to 31 July 2009 to analyse the situation and to conduct talks with representatives from institutions, organizations and potential target groups at national level and in Region VII (Eastern Visayas).

The Philippine Archipelago is regularly ravaged by extreme natural events, with earthquakes, typhoons and volcanic eruption being the most frequent. Year after year, the resultant floods, landslides and mudslides destroy valuable agricultural land and settlements, besides claiming human lives. In 2008 alone, over five million Filipinos were affected by typhoons, 644 people lost their lives, and economic losses exceeded US$ 400 million. Most of the damage was caused on 21 June 2008 by the sever typhoon "Frank", which devastated large parts of the country and rendered several hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

The devastation is explained not only by the fact that the country is prone to natural disasters, but also by the extreme vulnerablilty of Philippine society. Fuelled by the growth in population, the number of people in absoute terms rose by four million between 1985 and 2000. Increased environmental degradation, reflected in a dramatic decline in forest cover, heavy erosion and in the destruction of coral reefs and mangrove forests (and therefore also in declining agricultural yields), combined with inadequate capacities to deal with disaster risk management (DRM), mean that disaster-induced economic losses are increasing in the country.

Region VIII is particularly hard hit by natural disasters. For example in1991, a flash flood laid waste to large parts of the city of Ormoc, claiming 5,956 lives. Three years ago (17 February 2006), 1,126 people were burried under a landslide in Southern Leyte. Several smaller-scale disasters, particularly floods, also occur year after year, and while they do not feature in the international media, the cumulative damage and loss of life are enormous impediments to develoment n the region. On the other hand, the disasters of Region VIII are due to the area's exposure to natural hazards such as typhoons, floods, erosion, landslides, earthquakes, droughts and tsunamis. On the other hand, disaster risk also has much to do with the fact that people in Region VIII are particularly vulnerable to disasters. Poverty indicators substantiate the reality of development disparities in comparison to other parts of the country (HDI in Region VII is 0.55, as against the countrywide average of 0.76).

Further attempts to define the problem on regional level reveal that Samar is poorer than Leyte, a factor that is also reflected in the situations of the three cities that were analysed in depth in the course of the review mission (In Calbayog, the statistical annual average income was Php 78,000 (2000), Php 93,000 in Ormoc, and in Tacloban even Php 212,000 could be generated. Other data is also similar: employment in agriculture refelcted as a percentage of overall employment (45/24/1.3); literacy (14/9/3). It is also obvious that rural areas are, relatively speaking, poorer than urban areas. However, when expressed in absolute figures, substantially more poor people live in the cities.

Yet urban poverty and vulnerability to disasters are closely related to rural poverty, and have an impact on each other (functional dependencies), as will be described below. Possible solutions to minimize disaster risk in cities must therefore be sought in both areas.

Disaster risk in the cities can be outlined as follows: Deforestation in the upper water catchment areas contributing to flooding. The entry of high levels of fertilizer and faecal matter into the floodwaters compounds the problem, which then develops into a health hazard in the coastal cities. The tremendous influx of rural migrants and the absence of land use planning mean that cities are not in a position to identify adequate settlement areas. Consequently, many people live in a city’s marginalized and risk-prone locations; for example, in the flood plains of a river. Not only is direct living environment under threat, but agricultural land also lies in flood-prone areas. Traditional coping strategies are hardly to be found nowadays in cities. A pronounced trend towards individualization is clearly replacing once strong family ties, which is why, for instance, examples of people helping each other at times of disasters are rare. Moreover, traditional knowledge of minimizing risk (e.g. multiple cropping or crop diversification) and of risk prevention (stilt houses, adapted agricultural usage) is being increasing lost. Livelihood (above all, housing, health and food) is therefore at direct risk.

At present, action is taken primarily in the aftermath of disasters, and involves the deployment of recovery teams, assessment of damage, provision of support for the injured, and rehabilitation of destroyed public infrastructure. This is because DRM in the Philippines has been extremely reactive to date (tackling the damage caused by disasters, rescuing and providing disaster victims, etc.). While attempts are already under way to shift to a holistic understanding of DRM, these have been unsuccessful for several reasons, DRM is still usually thought as an environmental issue. Moreover, disaster protection is poorly organized. There are seldom any emergency plans; rescue services are poorly equipped and poorly organized, and financial resources are not available. The question of which state institution should be responsible for this issue is also obstructing the successful shift to prevention. Apart from the vested interests of political players, reorganization is additionally hampered by the limited planning and human resource capacities of local governments and by weak communication and coordination between the different sectors.

The core problem is therefore that the municipalities are not well prepared for eventual disasters in terms of organization, structure and finances, nor are they in a position to prevent disaster risks. During the First National Conference on Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction (NCDRR) in March 2008, the local authorities together with the ministries responsible for disaster management and planning processes therefore stressed the need to support cities and communities in strengthening their preventive capacities.

A result of the review was the suggestion to implement a German-Philippine cooperative project in Region VIII. The following three cities were prioritized as pilot locations: Ormoc, Tacloban (both in the province of Leyte) and Calbayog (in Western Samar). Given their vulnerable location and large populations, they are at serious risk, but DRM has been initiated. Furthermore, in two of three cities one can fall back on existing GTZ structures or can build on them. The municipalities and the target groups believe that the highest priority should be accorded to activities that strengthen preparedness structures and safeguard livelihoods.

a) Strengthen preparedness structures by
  • offering basic and further training, also recovery teams
  • setting up and equipping evacuation centers
  • setting up early warning systems
  • developing disaster protection plans.

b) Safeguard livelihoods by

  • making agriculture less disaster-prone
  • improving health (hygienic) conditions during disasters, with special reference to drinking water and sanitation
  • making houses more disaster-resilient

The target group comprises poor, disadvantaged and disaster-affected population groups in selected cities in Region VIII. The target group in the three prioritized cities covers up to 17,000 households or families (approximately 85,000 persons). Special attention is given to the following groups: women in general and women-headed households; (unemployed) youth; and migrants from marginalized areas.

The overall objective of the project is: Selected municipalities in particularly affected cities are better equipped to handle DRM and can therefore mitigate the damage and losses caused by natural disasters. The following key indicators have been identified for assessing the achievement of this objective:

  1. On the basis of risk analyses, the selected cities have identified appropriate risk-reduction measures that have been operationalized in DRM action plans.
  2. In at least two cities, the investments stipulated in the annual investment plan (AIP) for disaster prevention and preparedness measures, distilled from the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP), have doubled.’
  3. At least X% of the target group in each city uses at least one of the preventive measures promoted by the project (values will be allocated to the indicators in the first project year).
  4. More than 60% of the target groups in each city confirm that they feel better prepared for dealing with disasters (opinion survey).
  5. At least one additional city outside Region VIII (preferably in Caraga) has adopted the project method for integrating DRM into its CLUP.

In addition to reducing the existing disaster risks to livelihoods and preventing the emergence of new risks by promoting disaster-sensitive development and land use planning, the methodological approach pursued by the project aims to improve management of the accepted residual risk by ensuring that the people are better prepared for disasters. This comprehensive DRM concept supports the efforts of government bodies to shift from disaster management to disaster risk management. Particular importance is given to community-based preventive and preparatory approaches and therefore to capacitating municipalities as important intermediaries of the project. The self-help and self-organizational ability of people particular threatened by disasters (target group) is promoted, whereby a contribution is made to structural stability. Special emphasis is laid on the integration of disadvantaged population groups.

The key outputs are support for the (re-) construction of infrastructure, the promotion of disaster-resistant and disaster-reduction technologies, the setting up and equipping of early warning systems, rescue teams and centers, the promotion of risk analyses and planning processes, and support for upgrading (organization, training) the municipalities and government planning authorities (intermediaries). Knowledge transfer processes and the integration of local experiences into national political processes are also supported. Use of outputs by the intermediaries and target groups is reflected in the utilization of the infrastructure developed, the adoption of disaster-resistant and disaster-reduction technologies, and the implementation of preventive planning procedure in budget planning that takes account of DRM, and in the replication of DRM measures by cities and government authorities. The direct-benefit lies in mainstreaming DRM in planning processes and budgeting, strengthening disaster-resistant means of existence, ensuring that cities are better prepared for disasters, and implementing DRM on a broad scale. In addition to reducing the losses and damage caused by disasters, this leads to more disaster-resistant economic and social development (indirect benefit), which is ultimately a basis for poverty reduction and sustainable development (highly aggregated results).

The lead executing agency is the Department for the Interior and Local Government (DILG). It supports the project at national level (Manila) in the effort to incorporate project experiences into the design of the national policy process. At regional level, DILG is represented in the Development and Planning Councils; it advises cities on integrating DRM into planning processes and plans and, together with the respective city, partners the project in planning and implementing certain infrastructure measures.

The German contribution involves the assignment of one long-term expert (50%) for three years. Philippine experts and auxiliary staff will also be paid from the project budget. In addition, the following contributions will be made within the framework of the German assistance: advisory services, training measures within the country and abroad, equipment and materials, and local subsidies. The contract value for the three-year project term is EUR 950,000.


Relative to this project, a Partner Workshop will be held today in Tacloban. On October 21, 2009, a pre-Planning Workshop was held in Calbayog. Here some pictures from that activity:

Mayor Mel Sarmiento delivering his message

Mr. Mario Donga, DRM HQ Project consultant

Mr. Olaf Neussner, DRM Consultant with Mr. Mario Donga.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mayor Mel Sarmiento in Japan for 2nd 3Rs Conference

Mayor Mel Senen Sarmiento is in Fukuoka City, Japan to attend the 2nd 3Rs Conference for Asian Local Government. The said conference will be held on October 25 to 26, 2009.

The conference is organized by Japan Environmental Sanitation Center (JESC) and supported by the Ministry of Environment, Fukuoka Prefectural Government, Fukuoka City Government, Kitakyushu City Government and other organizations.

This conference will bring together officers of local governments to build stronger partnerships. It is also aimed at promoting the importance of 3Rs activities in Asia.

In his letter to the Sangguniang Panlungsod, Mayor Sarmiento informed the City Officials that no local funds are involved in his travel as the organizers have shouldered his traveling expenses. He further informed the city officials that his attendance in the said activity shall be greatly beneficial to the City Government as the program will have participation from other Asian countries who will discuss issues on the 3Rs; and that the opportunity to share with these representatives' problems related to the city's environment may open the door for possible sources of funding for the LGU's local environmental projects and logistical assistance for its other programs and initiatives.

Mayor Sarmiento is expected to be back on October 28, 2009.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Courtesy Call by the GTZ Team

Vice Mayor Ronald Aquino as he welcomed the GTZ Team

Vice Mayor Ronald Aquino, together with some SP members met with the German Technical Cooperation or GTZ Team earlier today at the City Mayor's Office.

The team was composed of Mario Donga and Olaf Neussner, both GTZ Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Consultants; and Allen Molen, Program Adviser, DRM Environment and Rural Development Program.

They were on hand to brief the City Officials on the 3-year Urban DRM Project for the City of Calbayog which was recently approved by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation (BMZ).

The team was in Cabayog for data-gathering the pre-planning workshop aimed at defining the areas of cooperation in line with the overall objectives and outputs of the project in preparation for the Partner Workshop in Tacloban this coming October 29, 2009.

Present at today's meeting were Councilors Ina Rabuya, Danny Bernate, Noel Sermense, Jonas Montealto and Benjie Dean. Also on hand were Environment Officer Joe Raz, City Planning and Development Officer Gil Lentejas, City Agriculturist Adela Ocenar and DILG City Director Valente Bajet.

Mr. Allen Molen giving some info on the project.

Team leader Mario Donga

DILG City Director Valente Bajet (right) with (l-r) Mr. Olaf Neussner, Mr. Mario Donga and Mr. Allen Colen.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Charter Day 2009

Mayor Mel Sarmiento and Vice Mayor Ronald Aquino as they unveiled the marker at the Calbayog City Sports Center. Looking on are Councilors Noel Sermense and Sonny Salurio. The inauguration of the Center was one of the events during the 61st Charter Day Celebration. (Photo by Joel Lagang)

Calbayog City marks today its 61st Charter Day celebrations

(This report appears in today's edition of the Leyte-Samar Daily Express)

TACLOBAN CITY- The City of Calbayog will mark its 61st Charter Day today with the aim to make the city as a model in advancing unity in leadership and implementation of government programs.

City Mayor Mel Senen Sarmiento said in a phone interview that the celebration of this year’s Charter Day is simple but it will foster a sustainable unified effort in their city and in the whole province.

“We have challenges but we can overcome this if we are one in achieving goals and we can do so much,” Sarmiento told Leyte Samar Daily Express.

This year’s Charter Day commemoration is anchored on the theme “Calbayog . . . Towards Excellence, Service and Leadership.”

Starting Oct. 12, the local government unit has lined up various activities to include Opening Salvo, Street Beat Party Mix, Tinapa Foodfest, Games with Philippine Basketball Association, Math Olympiad / Quiz Bee, Concerts and Medical / Dental Mission,

Highlighting today’s Charter Day is a Parade, Calbayog City Sport Center Inauguration; Awarding of The Most Outstanding Calbayognon, Pa-raffle sa Barangay and live concert with Renz Verano, May Rivera and Jackston Brothers.

Under the original plan, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was invited to grace the occasion as a gesture of appreciation for the projects implemented in Calbayog City under her administration.

The plan was changed as the national government is giving more attention to Luzon provinces hardly hit by Typhoon “Ondoy” and “Pepeng.”

Sarmiento expressed gratitude for local officials of Samar and residents of Calbayog for the support in pushing through development initiatives.

“If there is fighting (between political leaders), it will be detrimental to growth,” Sarmiento pointed out.

One of the developments mentioned by the city’s chief executive is the recent conversion of Tiburcio Tancinco Memorial Institute of Science and Technology in Calbayog City into NorthWest Samar State University.

Aside from the TTMIST bill, Arroyo has approved on Wednesday the conversion of the Naval State University in Biliran, Ifugao State University, Romblon State University and Bohol Island State University.

This year, the city is embarking on major projects such as the Calbayog City Sports Complex, new market, Convention Center, landfill and a new park.

In 2008, the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) cited Calbayog as one of the Most Competetive Small-sized Cities in the country.

Calbayog rose to political and religious prominence after the American era and became the seat of Roman Catholicism in Samar when the Diocese of Calbayog was created on April 10, 1910. Republic Act No. 328 made Calbayog a City on October 16, 1948. (SARWELL Q. MENIANO/ Staff writer)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October 16, 2009, a Special (non-working) Day in Calbayog

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has declared October 16, 2009 as a Special (non-working) Day in Calbayog City.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita signed Proclamation No. 1915 on October 12, 2009 by the Authority of the President.

The proclamation cited October 16, 2009 being the 61st Charter Day anniversary of Calbayog and that it is but fitting that the people of the City of Calbayog be given full opportunity to celebrate the occasion with appropriate ceremonies.

Calbayog became a city on October 16, 1948 by virtue of R.A. 328.

Calbayog rose to political and religious prominence toward the end of the American occupation in the country. It became the seat of Roman Catholicism in Samar, Leyte and the Marianas when the Diocese of Calbayog was erected on April 10, 1910.

DepEd to launch “Brigada Eskwela Plus” in Calbayog City

Calbayog City_/ Just months after achieving full participation of all public schools in the country, Brigada Eskwela: the Annual National Schools Maintenance Week, the Deptartment of Education (DepEd) Central Office will launch the Brigada Eskwela Plus, this time in Calbayog City, this coming Saturday, October 17.

DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus leads the list of participants to the launching which include Calbayog City Officials led by Mayor Mel Senen Sarmiento, and DepEd Officials for Region 8.

According to City Schools Division Superintendent Editha Paculan, since the Brigada Eskwela Program which empowers various communities nationwide in helping their schools prepare for the opening of classes in the month of June was very successful, the DepEd deemed it necessary to step up its Program efforts to harness the partnership of over 43,000 public schools with their community stakeholders, and to maximize each community’s potential for participation in the affairs of education through Brigada Eskwela Plus.

The Brigada Eskwela Plus shall focus on three main activities: school maintenance activities through out the school year, community-led efforts to improve student participation and reduce the incidence of drop-outs, and community –led efforts to improve student performance.

During the program – launching, Paculan said that other DepEd Programs implemented together with the community stakeholders will also be tackled, such as the Adopt-a School Program, Project Faces or Facilitating Access to Complete Elementary School, and the very successful Project “Sakay Na,” or Shuttle All Kids and Youngsters Needing Assistance of the city.

Also invited to this event are members of the Local School Board, Parents-Teachers’ Association presidents, Punong Barangays, Barangay Kagawads who chairs the education committee, and SK Chairpersons.

Expected to provide entertainment during the whole-day program which will be held at the City Sports Complex are the students of Calbayog City National High School, DepEd Calbayog City Cultural Group, and popular singer Yeng Constantino. (DYOG/Eleen Lim)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Calbayog City says NO to House Bill No. 24

“The fight is not yet over”, or so said Calbayog City Mayor and League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) Secretary-General Mel Senen Sarmiento in his message during the flag-raising ceremony last Monday, October 5, 2009. He was referring to the new campaign of the LCP against unwarranted cityhood bills that have long-term implications to cities all over the Philippines. This time it is with House Bill No. 24.

House Bill No. 24 authored by Representative Ann Hofer of Zamboanga Sibugay, seeks to exempt capital towns of provinces without cities from the requirements of cityhood specifically on the locally generated income of 100 million pesos. As per LCP memorandum sent to all City Mayors, the House Committee on Local Governments already ‘approved’ the said bill. And based on records, LCP was not invited to express its official position.

A simulation provided by the LCP Secretariat showed that should HB 24 make it as a law, it will mean a significant IRA reduction for all cities. And with the implementation of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL3), it will mean a retrenchment of approximately 20,023 LGU employees all over the country.

For the City of Calbayog, it will be a reduction of Php 121,044,496.07 from its present IRA of Php 621,444,233.00. And the implementation of SSL3 could lead to the retrenchment of 473 employees; and not to mention lesser funds for other basic services.

Mayor Sarmiento said that retrenchment is not something that he can imagine. He said that the same sentiment is shared by the other City Mayors all over the country. He urged everyone to continue the advocacy against undue conversion of cities. He urged the employees to write the Senators on the possible short term and long term effect of HB 24. Calbayog will also join other cities in writing their respective Congressmen requesting for the outright rejection of HB No. 24.

Mayor Sarmiento also reiterated his stand on cityhood and complying with what’s prescribed by the law. He is not against municipalities being converted into cities. As long as these municipalities are qualified especially about the requirement on the locally-generated income, then there would be no reason to oppose such moves.

It would be recalled that early last year, Calbayog joined the LCP in opposing the conversion 16 municipalities into cities. It was a legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court.