Lacson: Private sector can help prevent disasters

Posted at 01/28/2014 2:00 AM | Updated as of 01/28/2014 9:45 AM

MANILA -- Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery Panfilo Lacson believes that the private sector plays a big role in preventing disasters in the Philippines.

Lacson, in an interview on ANC Talkback that aired Monday, explained the benefits of having the private sector helping in the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in areas hit by typhoon Yolanda.

"It keeps the national government challenged because if they (government) cannot cope with the private sector in managing the disaster or preparing for another disaster, then they will be left out," he said.

As the newly-appointed adviser on rehabilitation and recovery, Lacson acknowledged the help that the private sector provides his office.

"We are a coordinator, a facilitator, an enabler. We are limited to coordinating with different agencies, the private sector, CSOs, NGOs. The horizontal development will be done by the national government, while the vertical development will be undertaken by the private sector."

Lacson also talked about his recent trip to Samar and Leyte to check on the progress of the rehabilitation efforts in the devastated areas.

During his visit, he noticed a change in attitude of residents of typhoon-hit areas.

"During 'Agaton', with winds at 55 kilometers per hour, they scampered to safety, which they did not do during 'Yolanda'. We are more conscious now when we build structures so these can be prepared for any calamity."

He added that the government is planning to create emergency evacuation centers that can either be one classroom in a cluster, a multipurpose hall, or a gymnasium.

The center will be built to be resilient against strong winds, and during warnings from government agencies, the mayor should bring the residents to the evacuation centers.

Evacuation centers should be self-sustaining, have own food storage and facilities that can provide power and water.

Hospitals that can be converted to command centers will also be built.

Lacson said rehabilitation should be long-term.

"The problem is global, the solution should also be global. When I visited Tacloban with Sec. Gen. Ban Ki-moon, he mentioned that the sea level is rising by 2 millimeters annually, and that by 2100 it would have risen by two meters. We won't be here by that time but we should think of future generations."

He added that his office is also coordinating with scientists and experts to get their ideas and opinions on how rehabilitation should be done.

As the "rehabilitation czar," Lacson explained that his office gives the private sector a certain level of autonomy in terms of rehabilitation, as long as they comply to the standards set by the government.

"Private organizations have their own management systems, they have their own auditing, so we leave them on their own. Once they adopt an area, we don't intervene. The only job we'll do is to fill gaps and to avoid overlaps. of course, their design have to conform with standards set by the government."

Lacson acknowledged the effort given by private institutions in augmenting the help that the government provides, especially in terms of providing livelihood in the form of cash-for-work programs and shelter kits to the survivors.

"When you go there, you'll meet people, they're smiling. When they see people from Manila they're so happy they think aid will come."

He believes that the private sector will be essential in accelerating the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the devastated areas, given the condition of the people in the devastated areas.

"We want them to participate directly. You're good up to 2016 but the private sector will still be there."