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Republic of the Philippines

Department of National Defense

NATIONAL DEFENSE COLLEGE OF THE PHILIPPINES

Philippine Center for Excellence, Defense, Development and Security

 

An In-depth Analysis of Crisis Management of the Philippines: Webinar Proceedings

The Webinar Pilot Session with the theme: “An In-depth Analysis of Crisis Management of the Philippines” was presided by Gloria Jumamil-Mercado PhD, MNSA, Director, PCEDS with Mr Rej Cortez Torrecampo as the Moderator. The activity was attended by MNSA Students, prospective E-MNSA students, government officials from different civilian agencies, and PCEDS Program Team.

PRESENTATION & DISCUSSION:

The meeting started at 02:30PM with Dr Mercado providing the Welcoming Remarks. She emphasized the importance of the activity and also elaborated on the complexity of the pandemic. She bid that the goal of this webinar is provide a conversation among the participants to learn and draw out important insights that you can bring into your intuitions and organizations. To provide a briefer Ms Kim Elise Bartilad, a Defense Research Officer, presented the COVID-19 Timeline which was based on the COVID-19 Databank of the Center. The presentation focused on the spread of the disease, actions taken by the government, and relevant policies and initiatives of the government on crisis management.

Mr Torrecampo then proceeded to introduce the subject matter experts.  Two resource persons were invited to lead the discussions, namely, COL RANULFO SEVILLA INF (GSC) PA, Member of the MNSA Regular Course 55, and ATTY. LESLEY JEANNE Y CORDERO, Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist of World Bank. COL SEVILLA was part of the writers and planners in the crafting of the National Crisis Management Core Manual and Executive Order Nr. 82 s. 2012 while ATTY CORDERO served as Undersecretary at the Office of the President – Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery during the Yolanda disaster. Key discussion points are as follows:

  1. What does the COVID-19 public health emergency tell us about the Crisis Management of the Philippines? According to Atty. Cordero, the COVID-19 pandemic was able to highlight 1) the strengths and weaknesses of the structure of the system and the governance; 2) the ability or inability for the structure, the government, as well as the people to innovate and be creative 3) the level of flexibility, to adapt, adjust, and implement of the government policies, systems, and mechanisms; 4) it highlights the resilience and heroism of the Filipinos; and 5) it shows the character, integrity, and credibility of government leaders and officials we have at the national, local, regional level. She also noted that the assessment of the Government’s response in the current situation will only be evident after the nation curbs the COVID-19 cases. Atty. Cordero emphasized that the current challenge is how the Government can efficiently adjust and adapt to the evolving complex situation and how the institutions and agencies can self-correct from its lessons learned and apply best practices from successful models.
  1. On the implications of the self-organizing efforts of Filipino citizens, Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), and the Private sector. Cordero suggested that self-organizing creates more difficulty for the government. However, as she pointed out, these self-organizing efforts by individual citizens, NGOs and the Private Sector are addressing a need that government was not able to address quickly. The challenge now is more on how the Government can manage organizations involved in self-organizing and how to put them under the existing crisis management structure or framework. She further emphasized that it is also the role of the government to lead these people’s efforts to supplement the government’s efforts. In addition to this, Col. Sevilla, the National Crisis Management Core Manual was crafted for the very purpose of harmonizing the government agencies, other sectors, and self-organizing efforts of the people. The men and women behind the manual included this in the manual as they wanted to prevent conflicts and misalignments on the existing policies and laws of the national government. The manual also provides a guide to address the gaps between the Local Governments and overlapping crisis management organizations.
  1. Government Funding for Disasters. Omar Yasser Sema, a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Parliament raised his concern with regards to the lack of attention on the possible conversion of readily available unused funds or agency savings to additional source of funds for disasters. This is on top of the 5% pre-allocated disaster funds of all Local Government Units as specified in the 1991 Local Government Code and Republic Act 10121 or the Act Strengthening the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management System. He also cited the unused funds of the BTA which could have been used for the COVID-19 response efforts. Col. Sevilla then explained that the idea should be part of a new law instead of becoming a part of the National Crisis Management Manual because it takes a law to amend the law (previously mentioned disaster fund related laws).
  1. Implication of the COVID-10 Pandemic on the prospects of Federalism. Manmar Francisco, a Senior Defense Research Officer of the Research and Special Studies Division posed the question on the possible implication of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Prospects of Federalism. Atty. Cordero provided that it is not a question about moving towards federalism or not, it is inherent for local governments who are closes to the ground to be able to respond, because at the end of the day, they are the ones who know and who must directly provide for the needs of their constituents so the current set up is only part of a natural process of the Local Governments doing their mandate. In every disaster-related law, Local Governments are stated as the first responder. The Local Governments complements the National Government’s lack of man power to reach the grassroots level. She also cited her experience during the Yolanda Rehabilitation and Recovery Program where they were tasked to gather the concerns and generate local recovery programs to address certain needs of respective cities and municipalities. However, their team came upon the conclusions, that when they provided the crafted template and corresponding funding to be released to the Local Governments, only a few lag behind. This can be attributed to the clear instructions provided to them and their trust to the national government.
  1. Putting the National Crisis Management Core Manual into practice. Mercado pointed out the strong ownership of the manual at national level. The manual should have been translated to local crisis plans. She also noted that there should be an assessment of the effectivity of the manual and how it was used during the three crisis experienced by the nation: Yolanda; Zamboanga Siege; and, the Marawi Siege. Further, Dr. Mercado mentioned the need to capacitate Local Governments on the contents of the Manual as they are the ones to craft their own contingency plans and crisis plans as well as implement them. This was agreed upon by Col. Sevilla as he made example of the Municipality of Alabat, Quezon as one of the few Local Governments who followed the Manual. The said Municipality is already equipped with contingency plan for several different crisis scenarios. There is a need to educate the local leaders the importance of the crisis management because all actions in crisis management are done at the lowest tactical level and not in the national level. The implication will be on the international level but the actions are on the local level. These things could have been addressed if there is a will to cascade and disseminate the manual. He then pondered on why other Local Government Units fail to do the same. From his experience, lack of appreciation from Local Chief Executives is one of the evident reasons. As a result, Col. Sevilla lobbies the inclusion of a Crisis Management Course and/or lecture by the Local Government Academy. He also recommended to move the Office of the Civil Defense from the Department of National Defense to the Department of Interior and Local Government. Thereafter, Brigadier General Viaje, the NDCP President raised his concern on how the National Defense College of the Philippines can aid the government to strictly implement the contents of the National Crisis Management Manual. He also added that the ability of leaders to adjust and respond to the needs of their constituents can be clearly seen because of the pandemic. Col. Sevilla responded by citing the role of Education Institutions not only in the Defense Sector, in cascading and disseminating the manual, as well as, capacitating local government leaders in the art of crafting contingency plans and crisis plans. Providing them the template is not enough. They should know what they are crafting to be able to implement the plans well as needed.

 

  1. On the Management of the Government’s Recovery Program amidst the Pandemic. According to Atty Cordero, her experiences during the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 taught her that leaders must be prepared to be able to recover as quickly as possible. She added that usually, after a human induced disaster the Government readily provides a definite date for the commencement of recovery and rehabilitation efforts. On the other hand, there is no such definite date in the case of the COVID-19 situation. As such, the challenge now is how to simultaneously provide actions taken with regards to crisis management, as well as, crafting the Government‘s initial recovery and rehabilitation plan. The key is to repurpose staff who are not currently in the front lines, and to task them to start preparing and anticipating the needs of the citizens in their respective areas for when the ”new normal” is implemented whether it’s social services, infrastructure development, economic recovery efforts and the improvement of the overall security and health sectors. Another challenge is pursuing accountability amidst the several billions of funding injected as support to the COVID-19 response efforts in Government Agencies and the Local Level as stipulated in Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. Finally, there should also be a monitoring mechanism of the progress of government from every agency and each Local Government Unit. Overall, Atty Cordero think this is the best way to start planning. She notes that the NDRRMC has approved for implementation a PH disaster recovery and rehabilitation planning guide. Which is why the World Bank is trying to help government roll easy to follow templates for the LGUs which they can start using this template so they can start using this template to be able to plan their own recovery program.
  1. On the difficulties in decision making during crisis. According to Col. Sevilla there must be a clear designation and delegation of powers and tasks for the members of the decision-making body. That is why, as indicated in the Manual, and Incident Command System must be set up to design courses of actions to be presented to the policy decision making body for their approval. He further noted that the existing numerous layering in the Command is what delays the process. Atty. Cordero listed three (3) factors that greatly affect decision making during a crisis: 1) The race against time; 2) limited information; and, 3) Dynamics. However, she also noted that the real challenge is the Government ‘s level of confidence, comfort and conviction when presenting its decisions. According to Atty. Cordero, good leaders are able to identify the right people for the right job to implement their decisions. They are also able to stand by their decision, while at the same time, listen to conflicting positions and recommendations provided by constituents, experts, and colleagues. Overall, their ability is tested on how they swiftly decide and how efficiently can they deliver. When determining the possible acceptable tradeoffs for this particular crisis, Atty Cordero responded that in terms of hierarchy of priorities and needs these are a lot of competing principles and values, but what is primordial is the saving of lives, securing of livelihoods, economy, and then security. In terms of the level of acceptability in terms of the trade-offs Atty Cordero noted that it is not for the people who are not deciding to say because when you hear the discussions on the cabinet level, when you have the information that they are given then I trust in terms of judgement they will make the right call. Trusting the government at this point whether at the national or local government is very important. Trust that they have our good intentions at heart when they decide and hopefully if ever there will be missteps that there will also be self-correcting mechanisms to be able to adjust and manage the trade-offs. COL Sevilla agreed with Atty Cordero’s response of prioritizing saving human lives, he reasoned that human resources would become useless if there are no people to run the economy.
  1. The role of the Judiciary in Crisis Management. Regional Trial Court Judge Maria Josefina Torres raised a question on the role of the Judiciary in Crisis Management. As a response, Atty. Cordero offers, that internally, in order to be proactive, the Judiciary can provide guidelines and drafting parameters for the ”new normal” or what can be called the ”General Community Quarantine” situation. Secondly, the Judiciary must be vigilant to the checks and balances in the executive and legislative branch. This will provide the people with an opportunity to go to court to seek for clarifications for policy and law implementations, accountability for the lapses of the government and justice for when abuse of power is exercised.
  1. Crisis Management Lessons from the Philippine COVID-19 Experience. Sevilla suggests to combine the crisis and disaster management in order to avoid confusion when it comes to choosing a framework to use. Like he mentioned earlier, he wishes that the national government will consider moving the OCD to be part of the DILG, for them to have power and influence over the lowest tactical level of the government. On the other hand, Atty. Cordero said that not everyone needs to be a doctor or nurse in order to be a frontliner. Each one of us have a certain role to play during the crisis and it is our task to play that role at the best possible and this will be our own contribution to our society. Second, to become good crisis manager, one must be fast in adopting, adjusting, and executing the policies and guidelines of the commander-in-chief and we can cannot force him to fit in the box that we are used to but we can encourage him to recalibrate and reframe the exiting frameworks to fit whatever his commands or his needs is. Lastly, she pointed out the importance of keeping your network open and to continue building on network because no matter how effective one’s leadership qualities are, at the end of the day, in a crisis one needs a village to be able to move things.

To close the Webinar, BGEN ARCHIMEDES H VIAJE AFP (Ret), PHD, MNSA, the NDCP President, provided his remarks. Firstly, he briefly presented the adjustments made and actions taken by the college because of the implemented policies of the Department of National Defense and the National Government in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. He then highlighted the importance of the webinar as an eye-opener regarding important concepts and insights about Crisis Management. He also thanked the speakers for their time as they shared their expertise on the topics. The President likewise applauded the participants for their evident appetite for discourse resulting to a fruitful exchange of information. Finally, BGEN VIAJE congratulated the staff for the successful implementation of the Webinar pilot session.

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