Nueva Ecija gets 3.4 million euros grant from Spanish gov't for disaster mitigation

By Jason de Asis


PALAYAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, November 25, 2010–The provincial government of Nueva Ecija has been chosen as recipient of 3.4 million euros (P203 million) worth of grant from the Spanish government in recognition of the local government's capacity to respond to disaster and calamity situations and implement rehabilitation programs.


The grant, the first of its kind involving disaster risk reduction, was extended by the Spanish Cooperation Agency for Development (AECID) which entered into a project partnership agreement with the Local Government Academy - an attached agency of the Department of the Interior and Local Governments - to  strengthen local governments' disaster preparedness and response.


Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio Umali said the grant will be used to fund the training component, infrastructure and livelihood components of the program in select cities and municipalities of the province. He thanked the Spanish government for extending assistance to the province and the Philippines which, he said, both have historical ties with Spain after whom they were named after.


“The Philippines was known as Las Islas Filipinas with Luzon as Nueva Ecija but Nueva Ecija was later downsized into a province,” he said.  


Nueva Ecija was one of  three provinces considered for the grant assistance, the others were Pangasinan and Benguet.


Umali said the program will be implemented in partnership with the Office of Project Development Service (OPDS) of the DILG and DILG provincial office which constitute the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) project steering committee.


Various projects will be undertaken in the pilot municipalities of Carranglan, Llanera, Rizal and Pantabangan and in San Jose City aimed at strengthening their respective DRRM and response, improve inter-municipal networking, raise disaster risk reduction awareness and provide support and access to basic social and productive infrastructures and jobs.


The program specifically aims to help in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of communities affected by supertyphoon “Pepeng.”


LGA executive director Marivel Sacendocillo, the program's director, said Nueva Ecija was chosen as pilot area by the donor country in recognition of Umali's leadership in mitigating disaster risks as chairman of the provincial disaster risk reduction and management council (PDRRMC).


Sacendocillo also cited Dr. Abraham Pascua, DILG provincial director and PDRRMC co-chairman for overseeing disaster rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts along with Umali.


Pascua said the province mitigated the effects of past calamities because Umali was always on top of the situation, micro-managing and personally presiding over the inspection of damaged areas and even in the distribution of relief goods to affected families.


“The governor risked his life, even snaking through landslide-prone areas in Carranglan and braving floodwaters in low-lying areas to oversee our disaster mitigation, rescue and relief efforts. He was not only visible. He was personally involved in the disaster mitigation efforts,” he said.


He said the province also formulated a comprehensive disaster risk reduction contingency plan involving the pre-positioning of evacuation centers and relief goods, identification of flood-prone and low-lying areas and assignment of focal persons in these areas.


He added that the PDRRMC also activated five command posts and four advanced command posts in strategic areas of the province where personnel, heavy equipment, medicines and goods are deployed and stockpiled in advance in anticipation of a forthcoming typhoon.


Pascua also credited the pivotal role of the National Irrigation Administration, the Army, the Philippine National Police and the Department of Public Works and Highways in the disaster mitigation efforts in the province. He particularly singled out the NIA and the Army's 702nd Infantry Brigade.


He said that the NIA, through its Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation Systems - the operator of the giant Pantabangan Dam - effectively regulated the flow and release of water from the dam to prevent flooding during heavy rains brought by typhoons.


He recalled that at the height of “Pepeng” last year, then-UPRIIS operations manager and now NIA administrator Antonio Nangel and Freddie Tuquero, chief of the dam's reservoir division, consistently monitored the water level at the dam and released water prior to the onset of the supertyphoon, thus, preventing the Pantabangan Dam from reaching spilling level last year.


He recalled that during a four-day period last month at the height of typhoon “Juan,” water level at the dam was recorded at only between 194 meters to 197 meters, way below the spillway level of 221 meters because UPRIIS already released water before the typhoon came.


“If you can see, the disaster mitigation efforts of Nueva Ecija is very unique because you not only cope with calamities but also the water at the Pantabangan Dam. If you don't manage the dam well enough and its water release, then you will surely end in disaster,” he said, recalling the experience that befell Pangasinan when water overflowing from the San Roque Dam caused massive flooding.


Pascua said Army Col. Felicito Trinidad, brigade commander of the 702nd IB,   constantly communicated on a 24/7 basis with the PDRRMC for possible deployment of his men  in areas affected by the calamity ahead of the other government agencies. (Jason de Asis)