EXPLAINER: Why Cebu City Council tarries on declaring state of calamity for 'Agaton.' State of calamity unlocks funding. State of preparedness isn’t in the law or ordinance, is unclear on what it means.

·6 min read

AT A GLANCE. [] The Sanggunian has delayed the declaration of a state of calamity. If the issue is put to a vote, however, administration Barug will get its way; it dominates the City Council.

[] "Agaton" is gone. The declaration is to meet the law’s requirement for the disaster fund to be used for rehabilitation and assistance. The councilors want specifics on extent of damage and amount needed.


THE Cebu City Council will discuss anew this Wednesday, April 20 the city disaster coordinating council’s request to declare a state of calamity in the wake of Tropical Storm Agaton. The Sanggunian rejected the same request In its special session last April 14.

The special session was called on Maundy Thursday, a holy day, by Mayor Michael Rama, chairman of the local disaster council, which is fully titled Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council or CCDRRMC. Mayor Rama is represented in CCDRRMC by former city councilor Gerardo Carillo who “actually” manages the group of more than 20 members, including the chief of City Hall’s disaster office or CCDRRMO, a separate entity from the council.

Even before Carillo could report on the state of the city after ost Agaton, Minority Floorleader Nestor Archival Sr. asked him why they’re calling the councilors to a special session, do they know there are seven requirements in the law before a state of calamity can be declared?

Archival knew and Carillo wasn’t quick enough to show that he did too. Later, other councilors joined the assault – from Carillo’s lack of specifics on damage estimates to the extent of the calamity, citywide or just a number of barangays – resulting in the decision to ask for more data from agencies concerned in this Wednesday’s session.

ILL-TIMED: NO RDANA YET. A state of calamity declaration was premature, the Sanggunian decided, a fact that Carillo didn’t refute, admitting that his report collected initial estimates of such national agencies as Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Social Welfare and Services, agriculture bureau and City Hall’s own counterpart offices.

A rapid damage assessment and needs analysis (RDANA) was still to be prepared by each agency, Carillo conceded. RDANA is said to be a “response tool used in the early and initial state of onset of a disaster,” identifying the “magnitude of the disaster” and focusing on its “general impact on society and people’s coping capacity.”

Carillo gave numbers: 111 incidents of landslides, flooding, overflowing of rivers, damaged or blocked roads, and the like and 252 families and 997 individuals evacuated, P400 million in damaged structures and P40 million in lost or killed livestock.

Councilor Joy Pesquera was Barug’s replacement when Dondon Hontiveros vacated his councilor’s seat to fill the post vacated by the ascension of then vice mayor Mike Rama on the death of mayor Edgardo Labella. To Pesquera, Carillo’s report was “just words,” with no “supporting documents.” They can’t just give the money, with blanket authority to spend.

Pesquera moved to declare “a state of preparedness” instead with corollary motions from other councilors for the bagful of information the Sanggunian requires before declaring a state of calamity.

MAYOR’S DECLARATION. It looks odd that the City Council last Thursday refused to declare a state of calamity when three days before, on Monday, Mayor Rama already declared a state of calamity. Both the mayor and the Sanggunian got the same facts from the disaster council, right?

To reconcile the apparent inconsistency, one must see that the mayor’s purpose was to alert the City about the then coming typhoon while the Sanggunian’s purpose was to release the funds for disaster.

DIFFERENT REQUIREMENTS. It is the Sanggunian’s declaration, not the mayor’s declaration, that meets the law’s requirement. Both the office of the mayor and the City Council may both see the calamity but they have different requirements.

The mayor needs only to be convinced that there was damage and his constituents suffered. The City Council has to be convinced that the damage and its impact on residents were of the extent provided by the law. Seven requirements, Archival told or reminded Carillo.

The Sanggunian prudently decided to tarry with the declaration of state of calamity. But why the declaration of preparedness?

WHAT THE LAW PROVIDES. There must be a law or ordinance providing for a declaration of a state of preparedness. Councilor Archival told Explainer Saturday, April 16, he has not heard of any. Councilor Pesquera also said there’s no ordinance but “state of preparedness if commonly used in other countries.”

What Archival was sure about is that the law and implementing rules of Republic Act 2010 (the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010) require the declaration (and lifting) of a state of calamity by the local Sanggunian, upon the recommendation of the local disaster council “based on the results of the damage assessment and needs analysis.” And the criteria for that are listed by the national disaster council, seven of them, Archival repeated.

There’s a legal requirement for the declaration of a state of calamity to enable the use of disaster funds, none for declaration of a state of preparedness.

WHAT DOES IT EVEN MEAN? There’s no doubt about the need for a state of calamity being declared. The law is clear about the requirement.

But what is state of preparedness? Does the Sanggunian resolution mean the City is prepared for the disaster or is not prepared for it and must therefore prepare? It can be more specific, a demand it has made on Carillo about damage estimates.

Councilor Pesquera told Explainer that under a state of preparedness the City “prepares all its personnel and equipment to address impending disaster brought due to the calamity such as landslides and flooding.”

If it’s just a call for action, that may seem not needed, as the mayor earlier already made the same warning when he declared a state of calamity in his city. Preparedness is already a component of the law on disaster, along with prevention and mitigation. What the Sanggunian could do more precisely is to prod the disaster office (as distinguished from the disaster council) to do its job.

PREPARATION A CONTINUING THING. Councilor Phillip Zafra told the City Council that the City has better equipment and more skilled personnel to cope with disasters, given the series of calamities that came and the experiences that were learned. It has the resources of response, including its annual budget, for the next calamity that comes.

But here’s the thing: on the matter of allotted fund, the declaration of state of calamity was essential to unlock the vault and use the money, for preparation, mitigation, assistance and rehabilitation.

The declaration of state of calamity is the key, not the declaration of state of preparedness. And the City Council has assumed the posture of not easily giving the key, it demands more information that the law requires.

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