A municipal mayor in Eastern Samar is calling for changes to policies in releasing calamity funds to improve disaster risk reduction in communities.

Salcedo town mayor Melchor Mergal said intervention should be provided before impact, citing his experience with the Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: “Haiyan”) that hit Eastern Visayas in 2013.

“[We want to] use the calamity fund even three days before impact. We wanted really to encourage the national government to shift that thinking,” Mergal said in a forum organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Asia Pacific on July 7.

The three-day period is part of an “anticipatory action approach” in dealing with calamities through the “B-READY” project, piloted in Salcedo town in March 2019.

The FAO, a specialized agency of the United Nations whose mandate is to end hunger, defines anticipatory action as “an innovative approach which systematically links early warnings to actions designed to protect families and their assets ahead of a hazard.”

The B-READY (Building a REsilient, Adaptive and Disaster-Resilient CommunitY) project uses a parametric model that forecasts and predicts extreme weather events to protect vulnerable households from natural disorders.

When the forecast meets the “triggers,” the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council decides if it will distribute preemptive cash transfers to constituents.

Mergal said this would “greatly reduce people’s anxieties” since they will be assured of having food during the typhoon.

Additionally, it eliminates difficulty in transporting relief goods and increases safety as families can focus on securing assets like livestock and propping up homes to withstand bad weather, he said.

“Definitely they will have peace of mind that after the typhoon. Whatever happens, they have food for the next three days until such time they could go to their farms, fishing, and go to their livelihoods,” Mergal explained.

Mergal said Republic Act (RA) 10121 or the “Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010” states that local government units could only request calamity fund assistance after impact or landfall or after the declaration of a state of calamity.

Requests submitted to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council include supporting documents such as a damage or calamity impact assessment report.

The calamity fund is a lump-sum fund appropriated under the General Appropriations Act, which covers aid and rehabilitation when natural and man-made disasters strike communities.

The Commission on Audit permits the use of the local calamity fund or the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund only after impact as well, Mergal said.

The fund is earmarked from not less than 5 percent of the estimated revenue from regular sources, used to support disaster risk management activities.

The mayor said the municipal council had passed an ordinance to adopt the B-READY model.

“We have existing policies that we only have to harmonize to align with the new studies or technologies on forecast-based financing with triggers for preemptive cash transfer,” Mergal urged.

The B-READY program, which builds “resilient, adaptive, and disaster-ready communities,” is supported by the Dutch Relief Alliance. It is implemented by the Oxfam Novib, Oxfam in the Philippines, PLAN International, Global Parametrics, People’s Disaster Risk Reduction Network, Climbs, Smart Padala, Paymaya, and the local government of Salcedo. Jelo Ritzhie Mantaring