Ebinezer Florano, University of the Philippines, Quezon City, The Philippines

Presentation Title: Community governance for disaster recovery and resilience: Four case studies in the Philippines




In the aftermath of disasters, government agencies usually lead in recovery efforts. Communities, more often than not, are reduced to passive recipients of recovery and rehabilitation. Yet, their roles in post-disaster recovery programs have already been recognized as important by the literature on community-based disaster risk management. This study asked the following research questions:

  • What is the role of communities in the disaster recovery process and in building resiliency?
  • Under what conditions does community involvement result in effective recovery and resiliency? Are they affected by local conditions (i.e., biophysical conditions and geographical terrain, local socio-economic and political conditions, and culture and traditions)?
  • Given the potential of community involvement in disaster recovery efforts, what policies must be instituted in the Philippines to make them partners in building resilient societies?

Twelve barangays (the smallest administrative division in the Philippines and is the native Filipino term for a village, district or ward) in highly urbanized Tacloban, Iligan, Dagupan and Marikina were chosen as case studies. These four cities have been hit by catastrophic typhoons in the past (i.e., Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, Typhoon Washi in December 2011, Typhoon Parma in September-October 2009, and Typhoon Ketsana in September 2009, respectively), but have managed to recover.

Key Lessons Learned

  • Barangays within the studied cities have remained 'passive-reactive,' stuck in the pre-NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management) era because there are no concrete local recovery plans (e.g., housing, livelihood for those who lost jobs, availing of home and life insurance, charting of an alternative development path in the aftermath of a worst-case disaster scenario, etc.) even in the most DRRM-prepared barangays of Marikina and Dagupan. The 'reactive' recovery planning at the barangays could be an offshoot of the post-disaster recovery planning at the national government level.
  • With their dependency on assistance from the higher authorities, barangays and even higher local government units (LGUs) wait for directives to assess damages and losses and propose recovery and reconstruction plans from the NDRRMC and member agencies. This has historically been the norm, with only difference today being that the evaluations are more rigorous with the use of the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) methodology.
  • In the studied barangays, there are no plans, organizations, and capacity building for disaster recovery, and hence, is the weakest link in the country’s DRRM system.
  • As no concrete plans to 'build back better' once a worst-case disaster scenario hits the barangays exist, in such case, there is a preponderance on the part of barangay officials and residents to rely on 'God’s help' and even fatalism, however, barangays officials and residents expressed willingness to undertake recovery planning if they will be trained and guided.
  • In general, the Disaster-Resilient Community Index (DRCI) computations reveal two lessons:  
    • Cities which recovered relatively faster (Marikina and Dagupan vis-à-vis Iligan and Tacloban) may have made themselves more resilient through time. This may mean that building resiliency does not happen overnight. Issues and problems related to disaster recovery like housing and livelihood, the two most cited problems by disaster victims, should be addressed immediately to lessen their exposure to hazards and reduce their vulnerabilities.
    • It was discovered that severely damaged barangays received lower DRCI, which means they are less resilient compared to moderately- and least-damaged barangays.

 Policy/Practice Implications of Research

  • Amend Republic Act 10121 (Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010) to include 'Pre-Disaster Recovery Planning' (PDRP) as a key component of recovery and rehabilitation of the DRRM.
  • Require all government agencies to draft their own continuity plans through a new law or amendment to RA 10121. More often than not, post-disaster recovery efforts are focused on reviving the economy, infrastructure, agriculture, tourism, etc. Little attention or no attention is given to revive governance institutions like government offices, legislative council offices, etc. These are essential offices for the implementation of recovery programs, plans and projects. Hence, there is need for continuity plans.
  • Relocate the poor from dangerous areas to safer places and provide alternative sources of livelihood with proper consultation.  Before a disaster strikes, they should be relocated, which is more cost-efficient rather than providing them with relief goods each time there is a calamity. They should also be provided with alternative sources of livelihood so they do not return to disaster-prone areas once the recovery is complete. 

 Knowledge Gaps and Needs

  • Research should be undertaken to gather experiences of frontline offices of various government agencies (national government agencies, local government units, government-owned and/or -controlled corporations and other government entities) on how they prepared, recovered and restored their services after a disaster.
  • The literature on disaster recovery and resiliency should be broadened to include similar studies on other hazards, e.g., earthquakes, tsunamis and even man-made disasters like terrorism, etc., and in other levels of local government, e.g., municipalities, provinces and regions.
  • The DRCI used in this study should be applied in other areas to test its reliability.
  • A more rigorous quantitative approach in measuring 'recovery' and 'resiliency' should be undertaken.