Shifting Paradigms: Strengthening Institutions for Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction and Management

| Written by CSWCD


Strengthening Institutions for Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction and Management

shifting paradigms

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On November 8, 2013 supertyphoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan), recognized as the world’s strongest typhoon to hit land to date,  hit the Philippines and left a trail of death and destruction across a wide area of the country’s central islands.

While PAGASA warned the public of the typhoon as early as a week before it hit land, the supertyphoon exposed the lack of preparedness of some local government units and the vulnerabilities of communities to disaster risks.

More than three years after RA 10121 (An Act Strengthening the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management system, Providing for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Framework and Institutionalizing the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan) was passed, the typhoon impacts show that the local government, government agencies and communities were unprepared for the supertyphoon. What were the reasons for these? What preparedness mechanisms were put in place? How was supertyphoon Yolanda communicated to the public? What systems failed? What lessons can be learned from this experience to enable communities to be better prepared for future hazards?

This action research documented, analyzed and drew  lessons on institutional arrangements and capacities related to disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) from the experiences of Yolanda-affected communities in four (4) research sites in Guiuan, Eastern Samar (2 barangays), Palo, Leyte (1 barangay) and Camotes Island, Cebu (1 barangay).

It looked at and compared prevailing systems and practices in disaster prevention and  mitigation, disaster preparedness, disaster response and disaster rehabilitation and recovery of communities who had suffered high and low casualties and damages from the devastating impacts of typhoon Yolanda. It identified strengths and opportunities as well as weaknesses and critical gaps that need to be addressed towards creating and strengthening community-based structures, capabilities, mechanisms and measures for DRRM.

The project involved facilitation of orientation and planning sessions of DRRM Councils at the barangay and/or municipal levels. These orientation and planning sessions became yet another opportunity to engage the community members in analyzing, validating  and learning from the data.


Research Questions

  1. How were the communities in the research sites affected by the Yolanda (life, livelihood, infrastructures, social services, public security etc)?
  2. What disaster preparedness structures, measures and mechanisms were put in place by the different actors in the research sites (household, community, LGUs and DRRM councils)? How effective were these measures and mechanism? What are the gaps if any?
  3. How did various actors and institutions in the research sites (i.e. community, LGUs, CSO, individuals, academe etc.) address the impacts of ST Yolanda? How adequate were these responses? What factors facilitated/hindered the effectiveness of responses?
  4. What lessons and recommendations can be derived from the experience to make DRRM more effective?


The research was conducted for a period of six months from September 2014 to February 2015 in four barangays, specifically Bgys. Sapao and Banaag in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, Bgy. Candahug in Palo, Leyte and Bgy. Esperanza in San Francisco, Cebu.

Generally, there is still a low level of disaster preparedness in three of the four barangays in this research, namely Barangays Sapao, Banaag and Candahug. This can be attributed to the low awareness regarding the law which results to absence of any BDRRM long-term plan. There is generally a low capacity to implement the law. While there were trainings in the past, changes in the composition of barangay and municipal officials result to different priorities of the local chief executives, and DRRM may not rank high in the list of priorities. In San Francisco, aside from having a local DRRM champion, in their case the former mayor,   the presence of a non-government organization advocating for DRRM policies and programs largely influenced the LCEs. Moreover, such prioritization did not end with the end of the term of the elected official. The programs were continued by the next batch of elected officials.

In terms of communication, messages regarding the typhoon reached even the remote areas, through news from television or radio, or through text messages from relatives living in Metro Manila or other areas. While the messages reached them, their understanding of the risks involved with a super typhoon such as storm surge and strong winds were not understood nor anticipated by the community members.

Secondly, the paradigm shift emphasized in RA 10121 still remains to be seen in the three areas.  Much of the work in the three barangays was still focused on emergency response and weak in the preparedness, recovery and mitigation aspects.  At the municipal level, DRRM is seen as an additional task of the municipal officers. There are gaps in governance specifically competence of the DRRM officers, understanding of the meaning behind the law specially the paradigm shift, prioritization and accountability. San Francisco provides a good example wherein the MDRRMO has a permanent item, with a separate office, and with a set of staff, with plans, programs and budget.

Greater appreciation of the key role of DRRM in development, especially considering how vulnerable our communities are to disasters,  have yet to be achieved.   The urgency of the need to mainstream the framework and methodology of DRRM into the development plans of the LGUs, in light especially of the goal of promoting an ‘Integrated approach to genuine social and human development to reduce disaster risk’  must be actively advocated for.

Third, four years after legislation, implementation of RA 10121 remains to be weak, despite the fact that weather disturbances have become stronger over the years.

Fourth, there are more evidence of not ‘building back better’ rather than the other way around.

Ultimately, prevention and mitigation, means strategically addressing the underlying factors of the people’s vulnerability – unsustainable livelihoods, communities located in areas vulnerable to hazards, inadequate and insufficient basic social services such as health services, education, etc.  These have largely remained unaddressed.


As to building community resilience, the research surfaced dimensions of resilience from the research respondents, as follows:

  • Basic ingredients include having a safe and secure location, availability of basic services like health and shelter and economic resources such as land, income, savings, and livelihood options;
  • Solidarity among community members, as expressed through damayan, bayanihan, protecting each other, where individual as well as collective safety are intertwined;
  • Having strong faith and spirituality;
  • Leadership has to be felt by the community members who, at the same time, should also be cooperative for the common good;
  • People develop a culture of safety and preparedness;
  • Ensuring environmental integrity, to provide for the livelihood of community members;
  • Community members can avail of risk transfer mechanisms, e.g. insurance for crop, livestock, and life; and,
  • To strengthen community resilience requires broader enabling policy which supports and reinforces these dimensions at the community level.


The following are the major recommendations arising from this research:

For barangay officials and community members:

  1. Develop BDRRM plans, organize their BDRRM committees, and barangay councils to ensure implementation of the DRRM programs and activities;
  2. Enhance understanding of scientific disaster language;
  3. Identify areas where safe and sturdy evacuation centers can be built and generate resources to construct these;
  4. Develop effective communication systems between islands and mainland which can remain active even during disasters;
  5. Have a warehouse to stockpile goods, specially in island communities, to avoid running out of supplies in case islands become isolated after a disaster;
  6. Strengthen natural disaster mitigation measures, such as mangroves and coral reefs ;


For DOST and other members of the science community:

  1. Communicating hazards would be more helpful with the use of  local and visual language;
  2. For PAG-ASA to explore mechanisms to increase presence in local DRRM councils, specially in areas where they have local weather stations (they are mandated members only in the national and regional DRRM Councils);
  3. Build on and scale up PAG-ASA’s experience in working with NGOs and communities to localize  climate information and provide long term support for climate change adaptation;
  4. Develop designs for safe and sturdy barangay facilities such as barangay hall, health center, and elementary school that can withstand strong winds;
  5. Prepare and disseminate storm surge maps for islands and coastal barangays, specially those along the Pacific Ocean;


For NDRRMC and its member agencies:

  1. For NDRRMC to have a clearer and more robust monitoring and evaluation system for the implementation of the law;
  2. For DILG to extend more effective guidance and support to the LGUs in implementing RA101021, emphasizing the paradigm shift to pro-active programs rather than purely response;
  3. For DepED to scale up efforts to integrate / embed DRR-CCA in the curriculum, not just to have drills, but to have better understanding of the concepts, e.g. discuss hazards in science subjects, and, include teacher trainings on DRRM;


For other government units:

  1. For DILG and LGUs – Mainstream DRR-CCA in government structures (provincial, municipal, barangay), emphasizing the paradigm shift to pro-active programs rather than purely response. This will need strong leadership, long-term plans (beyond three-year terms of local chief executives), plantilla items, staff, budget, and organizing communities;
  2. For LGUs: Meaningful implementation of the law – ensure the community-based approach; ensure DRRM plans are developed and are adequately resourced; ensure the capacity for implementation is institutionalized through resourcing fully-mandated DRRMOs; in times of disasters, consider communication facilities, transportation (ports, specially), utilities, and security concerns in disaster preparedness since these will impact on disaster response (e.g. delivery of relief goods will be hampered if ports / roads are not cleared  right after a disaster).


For CSOs (local and international) engaged in DRRM and humanitarian assistance:

  1. Strengthen mainstreaming of DRRM-CCA into their programs;
  2. Building community capacities for CBDRRM through their programs;
  3. Organizing and advocacy for implementation of CBDRRM; and,
  4. Documentation and dissemination of good practice in CBDRRM.


For the oversight committee of RA10121:

  1. Secure reports from government agencies in charge of various components of RA 10121;
  2. Review the allocation and utilization of resources for the implementation of the law, and determine how community-based approaches are actually resourced;
  3. Review the current DRRM structure, and whether it is fit for purpose, including the effectiveness of leadership of the NDRRMC residing in the OCD/DND;
  4. Review and develop a more robust monitoring and evaluation system for the implementation of the law;
  5. Review accountability mechanisms and provide sanctions for non-compliance.


For mass media:

  1. Enhance knowledge and skills for more effective disaster communication.


Keywords: Community based disaster risk reduction and management (CBDRRM); RA 10121; Yolanda / Haiyan ; DRRM law; paradigm shift ; Guiuan ; Palo ; San Francisco ; purok system