Economic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director-General Arsenio Balisacan (2nd from left) met with ​​United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark (2nd from right) to discuss disaster risk reduction and management  and the progress and directions of UNDP assistance to the Philippines at the UN Headquarters in New York City on July 10, 2014. Also in the meeting was NEDA Deputy Director-General Rolando Tungpalan (left).

NEW YORK CITY — External humanitarian and development assistance must at all times be coordinated with government, using country systems to avoid costly parallel structures and overlaps, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan made this statement during the Roundtable on Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction in Development at the Fourth Biennial High-level Meeting of the Development Cooperation Forum (DCF) on July 10, 2014 at the UN Headquarters in New York City.

“Bypassing country systems and not coordinating with government tend to overburden local units tapped by development partners to carry out tasks. It unduly competes with government over needed manpower and other logistical resources,” he said.

Balisacan, who is also NEDA Director-General, also relayed this message in a meeting with Helen Clark, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, also in New York City. He added that regardless of the extent of disaster, there is no justification to by-pass the system government has put in place to deal with such disaster.

“This undermines ownership and accountability of government. It also results in inefficiency as such external resources may not be aligned with government priorities. Moreover, it tends to defeat efforts to build domestic capacity to effectively address disasters by weakening rather than strengthening local institutional arrangements and initiatives,” he said.

Balisacan further said that the recovery of businesses in the affected areas has the same importance and urgency with basic needs.

“As important as providing for basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and livelihood is for government to facilitate the resumption of private business and commerce in the affected communities, an important lifeline that is a major factor in restoring normalcy of the population, in the shortest possible time,” he said.

Balisacan, also noted that for the first time, disaster risk reduction is mainstreamed in the country’s Updated Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 and in the national budget process.

“In addition to economic growth and investment in social protection, the third pillar that we have adopted and incorporated in the Reconstruction Assistance for Yolanda (RAY) plan and in our development and budget process is investment in resiliency,” the Cabinet official said.

Balisacan related the key lessons that may be drawn from the Philippines’ Typhoon Yolanda experience that would improve the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction and response.

“Planning for economic development must take into account geo-hazards, including disaster risks such as storm surges and landslides. To mitigate risks, governments need to invest in technology for hazard mapping, risk forecasting, and building standards and zoning,” he said.

Balisacan also underscored the importance of making contingency planning and increasing the state of preparedness integral to the overall disaster risk reduction and management plan.

“It is vital to pre-identify alternate transport routes and communication lines, logistics planning, and safe and well-provided evacuation centers and medical facilities,” he noted.

The 2014 DCF aims to provide key inputs to the post-2015 development agenda and contribute to a new narrative for development cooperation and suggestions for a robust monitoring and accountability framework for development cooperation in a post-2015 context. The forum’s outcome will also serve as a key input for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.