Sition South Libis and Sition North Libis are two peripheral, riverine, peri-urban communities in the village of Banaba, San Mateo, Rizal. These two communities experience yearly flooding due to the overflow of two adjoining rivers (Marikina and Nangka Rivers) that are part of the topography of the area. This writer recorded a ten-year cycle of a big flood in the area – 1978, 1988, 1999, 2009. The prospect of more and worsening floods was aggravated by an environmentally critical project of one construction company to establish a cement batching plant right at the middle of the two sitios and very proximate to the embankments of Marikina River. The vulnerable families analysed the project and its impacts to them during the weekly Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) Buklod (numbering seven cells) meeting. The vulnerable people arrived at a consensus: the project of the construction company should be halted for disaster risk aggravation that would ensue that would be inimical to children, older persons, women, and persons with disabilities living in South and North Libis.
Non-structural types of disaster risk mitigation were mapped by the community of Buklod or Basic Ecclesial communities, such as a signature campaign of community folks addressed to the Mayor and a request for a public hearing with the committee on Environment and Natural Resources of the San Mateo Municipal Council.
We also ensured attendance at technical conferences to file complaints against the project with the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), the Regional Office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), and finally, lobbying to the Provincial Board Members of Rizal Provincial Council. The non-structural disaster risk mitigation efforts of the community paid off. The construction company packed up and abandoned its cement batching plant project in the area of vulnerable people in sitio South Libis and Norh Libis. But damage had already been done by the construction company’s initial earth moving activities and dumping of filling materials. Victory was not enough; we had to think of ways to be less vulnerable in more concrete initiatives and find sufficient funding. Our non structural disaster risk mitigation was undertaken with “pass the hat” funds while we also forged partnerships for this non structural disaster risk mitigation pursuits with: the lawyers of Tanggol Kalikasan, and at the early stage, the staff of the Ministry of Social and Human Development – Social Action Center, Diocese of Antipolo. The partnership ran from September 1995 up to May 1996, when the construction company folded up.
The members of Buklod Tao, Inc. tasked Ka Noli A. Abinales, concurrent President of the organization at that time, to write letters to sympathetic institutions that would help a fledgling organization. A simple project proposal was drafted and was submitted to the Small Embassy Project window of the Royal Netherland Embassy in Manila. The project delineated, for its first component, the establishment of th community-based disaster management structure of Buklod Tao, Inc, to be implemented in sitios South Libis and North Libis. The project proposal submitted to the embassy was approved in May 1997. The first tranche amounting to P25,000.00 was released by the embassy upon signing of a MOA in mid June 1997. With this first tranche, Buklod Tao was able to undertake the first component of Buklod Tao, Inc. project, that is, the establishment of a community-based disaster management organization (that was how it was called then, circa 1997).