By Jose Abraham C. Ongkiko and Lea Victoria D. Serrano
The UP Resilience Institute participated in the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) Cluster Connect Conference (CCC) held on Oct. 18, 2023 at Dusit Thani Hotel, Manila. UP RI’s Sonny Ongkiko (Chief Science Research Specialist) and Lea Serrano (Science Research Specialist II) actively participated in the workshop discussions and plenary session.
The Cluster Approach, introduced as a coordination mechanism of the international humanitarian system to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian response, has been localized to the Philippine context. The Cluster System puts PDRF members into cluster groups geared to ensure synergized action among various businesses and partner agencies before, during, and after disasters.
As partners with the PDRF through the Philippine Preparedness Partnership (PhilPrep), the UPRI was invited to lend insights from the point of view of the academic sector.
The conference began with a welcoming speech from the president of the PDRF, Rene “Butch” Meily. He recognized the efforts of their partner organizations highlighting how the private sector has contributed to disaster response: their trucks transported relief goods, their employees and equipment restored electricity, and their barges and planes transported aid workers and heavy equipment to hard-to-reach communities.
His message was followed by a keynote speech from Hon. Rex Gatchalian, Secretary of DSWD, who emphasized the partnership between the DSWD and PDRF in establishing the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) of DSWD.
The “setting of the stage and private sector at a glance” session was on how PDRF, based on past experiences, experienced many challenges in implementing the cluster system of the private sector. It is hoped that failures of member companies to work together as part of the cluster with many companies preferring to support humanitarian response efforts individually. Another important observation is the level of engagement of some member companies.
The CCC hopes to address these issues by gathering input from the private sector, as well as from National Government Agencies, UN Agencies, and other sectors. The input hopes to ensure that the response of the private sector in adding value to national response efforts is aligned with humanitarian values and reduces risk and vulnerabilities for people most in need.
Plenary discussions between representatives of the Jollibee Group Foundation, Manila Water Company Inc., GCash, UN OCHA, and UN WFP answered questions on what these organizations have been contributing to address climate change and what things they have learned since Typhoon Haiyan, which is nearing its 10th anniversary. They shared efforts on reforestation, revitalization of economies in communities post-disaster, and attainable loan options for communities stricken by disaster.
There were two workshops during the conference, wherein questions on how the PDRF can support the member organizations through the EOC, how the private sector could be more accountable in their actions, how coordinated private sector response could be more efficient, and what the challenges are in conducting coordinated private sector response and how to address these were raised.
In answer to these, the body called for resource management, timely access to information, assistance in logistics and coordination, capacity building, and accountability through transparency.
The PDRF CCC supports the observance of the International Day of Risk Reduction (IDRR) with the theme “Fighting inequality for a Resilient Future”. A total of 71 participants attended coming from various organizations.