Advocacy and Support Work for the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Law in the Philippines

Summary

The project revolved around the advocacy and lobbying work towards the enactment of a responsive DRRM Law. This case study is divided into two parts. The first part was the advocacy work of the network to ensure the passing of a DRRM Bill (2008-2010), and the second part is its current advocacy work in amending that DRRM Bill (2015-present) to make it more responsive and address the current challenges.

Why did the CBDRM intervention take place?
Prior to the passage of Republic Act 10121, the primary policy covering disaster management in the Philippines was the Presidential Decree 1566. This policy was limited to disaster response which centred only around the hazard and impacts of disasters. This reactive approach to managing disasters was inadequate considering the vulnerability of the country to disasters, thus the clamour for a more proactive approach to disaster risk reduction and management.

The primary objectives of the project are to elevate the importance of disaster risk management at the policy level and to develop a DRR national policy and mainstream DRM/DRR into development policy and planning. Specifically, the project aimed to:

  • increase understanding of communities and policy-makers on how DRM and DRR are significant to sustainable development;
  • impart knowledge on DRM and DRR for strategy implementation;
  • build capacities of communities on DRR and enable them to bring their concerns to national policy-making bodies;
  • build capacities at the national and local levels for mainstreaming and implementing DRM and DRR in the development process;
  • advance disaster risk reduction through appropriate legislation and action plans which address issues on governance, risk assessment, knowledge management, reduction of vulnerabilities and disaster preparedness.

What were the activities?
The project consisted of two components, namely: (a) policy support for communities; and (b) policy advocacy with policy-makers. Both components emphasised understanding basic concepts of hazards, vulnerability, risks and disasters and their interrelationships in order to achieve the objectives of the project.

Under the policy support component, public awareness-raising and capacity-building activities were implemented to ensure that the understanding, knowledge and competence of the communities enable them to understand disaster risks and
vulnerability and to facilitate disaster risk reduction at the local level. They were also trained to lobby for the prioritisation of disaster risk reduction and management at the local level.
In the policy advocacy component, meetings and conferences with policy-makers were implemented to inform them that the country’s vulnerability to disasters has increasingly challenged its social and economic development, and that the passing of the DRRM Bill will provide the solution to sustain its poverty reduction effort and socioeconomic development. It aimed to enable policy-makers to understand the complexity of disaster issues, the DRR framework and the social, economic and environmental benefits for implementing the strategy on DRR and mainstreaming DRR into development policy and planning.

Under the second component, DRRNetPhils conducted the following: (1) review, assessment and analysis of the current DRRM policies and programs in the country to determine the gaps and challenges that can be addressed by the passing of a new law; (2) formulation of policy advocacy strategy to ensure that all the policy recommendations identified during assessment will be considered by both chambers of Philippine Congress; and (3) consultations and lobbying with both the legislators and the network members.

The network also conducted DRR fora with various stakeholders; held media briefings to solicit media support by way of news articles to put pressure on Congress to act on the bill; formed a speakers’ bureau; and developed knowledge and promotional products such as publications, reports, audio-visual presentations, briefing documents/ primers and
collateral materials such as t-shirts, button pins, wristbands, etc.

DRRNetPhils produced primers on DRRM explaining the reforms needed in dealing with disasters and how the law could address the gaps in risk reduction and management.

To secure support for the bill from key legislators, the lobbying team of the network maintained their presence in key legislative activities such as Technical Working Group (TWG) meetings, Committee Hearings and Plenary Sessions. They also held regular meeting with legislators and their staff.

To build a base of support, the network also partnered with like-minded CSOs, academia, national government agencies, and local government units.

Who funded it?
Christian Aid – lead in the advocacy work within PINGON

What other actors were involved?

  • Philippine International NGO Network (PINGON)
  • Ateneo School of Governance (ASoG) – eventually became part of DRRNetPhils and spearheaded the legal aspect of the advocacy and lobby work for the DRRM bill

How long was the project for?
The project was originally for six months from November 2008 to April 2009. However, this was not realised within the original terms of the project. With sufficient funds still on hand to cover advocacy work and activities, the project gained approval for a ‘no-cost extension’.

When did it end?
The project ended when the bill was eventually passed into law in May 2010.

The DRRM law has a provision for a sunset review where after five years of implementation, the accomplishments and impacts, as well the performance and organisational aspects of the implementing agencies will be evaluated for the purpose of determining remedial legislation.

In 2015, DRRNetPhils started conducting consultation workshops with CSOs, government agencies, and local government units on their lessons and experience in implementing the law. Gaps and challenges were identified, as well as policy recommendations for the improvement of the current law. These policy recommendations were lobbied to be included in the amendatory bill.

DRRNetPhils participated in the Sunset Review process, as one of the four (4) CSO representatives in the National DRRM Council and the official representative to the Technical Working Group that drafted the amendatory bill.

The amendatory bill is now being discussed at the Technical Working Group level at the House or Representatives. In the middle of the network’s advocacy, an issue on what framework shall be used in the policy arose. After various discussions and debates between the frameworks of disaster risk reduction and civil defence, it has been agreed that disaster risk reduction aiming to prevent new and reduce existing risk is the policy objective; therefore, the DRR framework shall be employed.

The network also identified Congressman Joey Salceda as the main champion being the principal sponsor of the amendatory bill. His leadership was instrumental in convincing Office of Civil Defense (OCD) to drop their position on using the civil defence
framework. Various possible allies and opponents were also identified through political mapping and CSO partners committed to discussing the issue with their partner local government units (LGUs) and communities as well as with some allies in Congress.
This resulted in a community of practitioners and advocates calling for the amendments to the DRRM law.

To sustain the initial gains of the campaign, the Policy and Advocacy Committee is still engaging stakeholders, lobbying with legislators, and seeking support from other DRRM practitioners and advocates. Once the amendment is passed, the work shall
continue in monitoring its implementation and further advocating for other strategies that will contribute to building disaster resilience and achievement of sustainable development.

Process


Under the policy support component of the project, several awareness-raising and capacity-building activities were implemented. Workshop-summit type activities were organised with community representatives and local leaders as participants. These activities aim to increase their knowledge on DRRM and to empower them to lobby at the local level. The policy recommendations for the DRRM bill were culled out from the lessons and practices from the communities. One of the key provisions in the DRRM Law is the role of the local government units as frontliners and first responders in every disaster event. They take the lead in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from the effects of any disaster. Another key advocacy point during the lobbying for the DRRM law is on the participation of the civil society organisations. The law recognises the need to promote the involvement and participation of all stakeholders, including CSOs. Operationally, CSOs are given four (4) seats at the National and Local DRRM Councils – the interagency institution in-charge of policy-making, coordination, and implementation of DRRM activities. The law also recognises the centrality of the role of the communities focusing on the most vulnerable sectors; thus, it institutionalised CBDRRM as the main approach to disaster risk reduction. It was defined as process of disaster risk reduction and management in which at-risk communities are actively engaged in the identification, analysis, treatment, monitoring and evaluation of disaster risks in order to reduce their vulnerabilities and enhance their capacities, and where the people are at the heart of decision-making and implementation of disaster risk reduction and management activities. In the process of amending the current law, the communities are once again central. The network ensures that the policy recommendations are backed up by actual experience from the community. The experience of the local government units, as the government frontliners were also gathered to ensure that they will be able to effectively implement the provisions in the revised law.
As lobbied by DRRNetPhils, the people in the community, with a focus on the most vulnerable groups, should be at the centre of any strategy for disaster risk reduction. In the law that was eventually passed, the following are some provisions that highlight the role of the vulnerable groups defined as those that face higher exposure to disaster risk and poverty including, but not limited to, women, children, the elderly, differently-abled people, and ethnic minorities. • The local DRRM Councils encourage the community, specifically the youth, to participate in disaster risk reduction and management activities, such as organising quick response groups, particularly in identified disaster-prone areas, as well as the inclusion of disaster risk reduction and management programs as part of the SK programs and projects. • The Local DRRM Councils shall develop and strengthen the capacities of vulnerable and marginalised groups to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from the effects of disasters. • CSO Representatives and the Local Representatives should be organisations representing the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in the barangay. The membership of DRRNetPhils is composed mainly of civil society organisations working with the vulnerable sectors, community-based organisations, and people’s organisations. The network ensures that they are represented and participating in any lobbying work that is being done across all levels.
The nature of the project is policy advocacy; thus the activities are mainly focused on engaging the policy-makers and stakeholders to ensure that inputs and recommendations are included in the policy. Activities can be categorised into: (1) engagement with implementing agencies; (2) building champions among CSOs and other stakeholders; and (3) engagement with legislators and the legislative process. One of the initial challenges of the campaign is the move within the current administration of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) to regress to a disaster management framework and de-prioritise disaster risk reduction. OCD, as the main implementing agency of the current DRR law, insisted to name the agency Civil Defense Authority (CDA) and subsume DRR under a vague “civil defence” framework. Given this context, the network had to adjust its plans to strategically advocate against the regression of the gains that civil society has made in shifting the country’s policy from disaster management to DRR. Additional activities include continuous engagement and dialogue with OCD to inform and educate them on why DRR framework should be used in the amendatory bill. DRRNetPhils gathered input from CSOs and circulated a Statement of Concern among the National DRRM Council member agencies to inform them of its reasons for disagreeing with OCD’s move and rationale in pushing for a disaster risk reduction framework. Given the issue, it was imperative to gather the inputs of CSOs and update them on the developments. The network organised several meetings to gather feedback and inputs from CSOs and other networks. Island-wide consultation and feedback meetings were also conducted in conjunction with other project activities of other member organisations. Oxfam also supported some policy advocacy sessions on their project areas. There was also a feedback session with the members of the National Anti-Poverty Commission – Victims of Disasters and Calamities (NAPC-VDC) basic sector. Updates on the bill were also presented during the National Conference on Disability- Inclusive DRR. The Philippine International NGO Network (PINGON) and the Faith-Based Organizations Network (FBO Network) also requested a presentation on the updates on the advocacy. All these activities served as a platform to facilitate the process of firming up the commitment of CSOs and other DRR stakeholders to have a stronger voice and greater influence on the policy discussion at the executive and legislative level.

Impact


Even beyond the passage of the law in 2010, the network continued its engagement with both the government and the communities. The network became one of the CSO representatives in the National DRRM Council and it utilises this position to continuously advocate for community-based DRRM in the policies, programs, systems, and mechanisms to be implemented. One result of the engagement with the government is the development of a Basic Instructors’ Guide Manual for CBDRRM. The manual sets minimum guidelines for conducting CBDRRM at the barangay level. It is developed through a partnership with the Office of Civil Defense and JICA. Currently, all barangays are now mandated to use the manual in the conduct of CBDRRM training. It also continuously engages the community through various feedback and consultation workshops.
The shift from a reactive disaster management system to a more proactive system brought about by the passage of Republic Act 10121 in 2010, which has contributed to a lot of improvements in DRRM. There have been substantial gains such as the creation of local DRRM Offices and Councils, participation of CSOs, creation of local DRRM plans, and establishment of the Local DRRM Fund. Due to it being mandated now, there is a perceived increase in the number of communities developing their own local disaster risk reduction and management plan. More CSOs are now committed to implementing community-based DRRM programs in their respective areas.

Other


This policy advocacy project, though still ongoing, wants to emphasise the importance of employing simultaneous top-down and bottom-up strategies in pushing for policy change. Focusing on just one strategy will not have the same results; it has to be simultaneous. In aiming to establish an independent National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management agency through an amendment of the Philippine DRRM Law (RA 10121), activities should be implemented at both the national and community levels. Consultations were done at the local level to feed into the policy that is being advocated at the national level. Lobbying activities are done at the national level and updates are also fed back to the community level to inform and garner support towards the passage of the law. These two levels of activities have to be done at the same time to ensure that while legislative advocacy is happening at the national level, the substance emanates from the real experiences and clamour of the affected vulnerable people in the communities. To continue, the following activities will be implemented: • Policy Briefing with legislators and legislative staff in the House of Representatives and Senate of the Philippines • Dissemination of a policy paper to legislators and relevant stakeholders • Dialogue sessions with identified champions in the Legislative Branch • Press Briefing/Media Orientation • Social Media Campaign • Constituency Building To ensure the sustainability of efforts and concurrent achievement of the advocacy goal, the network will still be continuously vigilant on the position of OCD with regards to the inclusion of the civil defence framework in the proposed bill. Reverting back to their old position will derail the progress that the advocacy has achieved. After the passage of the law at the level of the House of Representatives, the network should continue its engagement and lobbying at the Senate of the Philippines. It shall also be more proactive in seeking support from other untapped CSOs. Once the amendment is passed, the work shall continue in monitoring its implementation and further advocating for other strategies that will contribute to addressing the challenges and gaps in policy and practice towards building disaster resilience and achievement of sustainable development.