NDRRMC prepares ‘national response plan’ for health hazards

Published July 29, 2020, 4:18 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) bared on Wednesday that it is planning to finish a “national response plan” for health hazards which can be used in addressing future issues with the same magnitude as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

NDRRMC Executive Director Ricardo Jalad

In a virtual town hall forum dubbed as “Disaster Risk Governance in the New Normal,” NDRRMC Executive Director Ricardo Jalad said a technical working group (TWG) had already started the formal discussions “last year” but it had to be stopped as the council focused on its COVID-19 response efforts.

“Last year, we started conducting meetings with the TWG of the NDRRMC to develop the national response plan for CBRNE. We were not able to complete the plan but there is something already that we have started,” Jalad told participants. CBRNE refers to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives.

Jalad was not able to discuss the initial contents of the draft of the national response plan nor the timeline when they will resume the meetings, but he said it can be considered as the government’s blueprint for standard response in various health risks.

Aside from a national response plan, Jalad also welcomed proposals for the creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) which will focus on the government’s strategies in disaster risk reduction and management efforts.

“We are working closely with our legislature to make this a reality,” he said.

With the absence of a national response plan, even Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who delivered the welcoming remarks in the forum, admitted that the country was “woefully unequipped and ill-prepared” during the early days of the pandemic.

However, Jalad said that the government was able to “effectively” cope with the effects of the pandemic as months passed by.

“COVID-19 started as a mere health concern but as we addressed the situation to control the viral spread, we encountered its adverse socio-economic repercussions,” Jalad said.

He noted that among the other concerns brought by the health crisis include the influx of returning overseas Filipino workers who lost their jobs, the locally stranded individuals, unemployment, work and business stoppage, transportation woes, and decreased commercial activities which sunk the economy.

He emphasized the need for further collaboration among various government agencies, private sector and other stakeholders if the country seeks to effectively deal with the pandemic.

“We see the challenges addressed effectively when there is strong coordination and support between all players and stakeholders,” he said.

The NDRRMC director also stated that information on the disease and the efforts to address its effects are being unified and calibrated since risk communication, risk perception and risk-informed behavour are crucial in addressing a pandemic.

Lastly, Jalad said that the digital migration of their disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) programs and activities is being implemented to adapt to the current situation.

“This enables us to continue to implement capacity-building activities using cyberspace and to reach a wider audience,” he said.

Jalad concluded that a united and harmonized effort of the society is essential in the struggle to combat COVID-19 and the negative impacts of natural hazards.

“As we shape our disaster risk reduction and management governance in this era of the new normal, be it to culminate in the creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience or only comprehensive system empowerment, let us continue to work together,” he said. 

Aside from Jalad, among the speakers during the forum were Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Bernardo Florece Jr.; Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong; Rene Meily, president of the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation; Loreine Dela Cruz, executive director of the Center for Disaster Preparedness Foundation Inc.; and Antonia Yulo Gonzaga, president of the National Resilience Council, Manila Observatory Trustee.