ASEM Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management
“Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY): Framework for an Organized Response”
by Sec. Arsenio M. Balisacan

Diamond Hotel, Manila, Philippines
05 June 2014

RAY is the Government’s strategic plan to guide the recovery and reconstruction of the economy, lives, and livelihoods in the areas affected by Yolanda. It was conceived about a week after typhoon Yolanda struck even as the Government, in close cooperation with development partners, was mounting an unprecedented humanitarian response to deliver relief assistance to more than 4 million people displaced by the typhoon. RAY was born of the recognition that although the immediate humanitarian response may be expected to continue for some time, commencing recovery and reconstruction as soon as possible was of critical importance.

In its capacity as Vice-Chair for Rehabilitation and Recovery of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), with assistance from the Australian Embassy, the Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank, led the preparation of the document Build Back Better. This document provided the first synthesis of the overall impact of typhoon Yolanda based on the best available data and information that could be obtained within a month after the devastation. RAY presented an estimate of the total economic damage and loss caused by Yolanda based on an internationally recognized post-disaster assessment methodology and informed by data gathered from field offices of government agencies and local government units (LGUs) and benchmarked against comparable post-disaster assessments previously done in the Philippines and other countries. It also took account of Yolanda’s impact on the macroeconomy, poverty, incomes, and employment.

RAY sought to provide a basis for coordinating the myriad efforts of foreign governments, international agencies, civic and humanitarian organizations in the Philippines and abroad to assist in the rehabilitation of the areas devastated by typhoon Yolanda. Its assessment of the short- and medium-term recovery and reconstruction needs served as a guide for resource mobilization. The RAY was prepared in record time; on December 18, 2013, within six weeks after Yolanda struck, it was presented by our President to our international development partners during a donors’ forum at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The release of RAY was also timed to coincide with our budget approval process, so that before Congress adjourned, a substantial amount of resources had already been allocated from the regular budget to finance the most immediate, critical interventions as well as identified short-term needs.

At this point it may be asked: what happened to the agreed protocol to first conduct a post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA) before formulating a recovery plan? In coming out with RAY, did not the Government effectively bypass this procedure?

Based on existing guidelines, a PDNA is to be conducted within 4 to 6 weeks upon the receipt of a government request. Given the extensive area affected by Yolanda, a good PDNA could take about 4 months, meaning that a plan for reconstruction and recovery would be ready about at least 6 months after the onset of a disaster. With the lengthy process of government procurement, projects would probably be implemented a full year after the disaster, by which time, the amount spent for relief work would have been inordinately huge, while the negative impact on people’s hopes and aspirations would have been irreversible.

Perhaps the lesson here is that as originally conceived, the existing protocol for the conduct of a PDNA applies in situations where disasters are confined to a relatively small set of geographic areas, and where the ability of LGUs to provide immediate response is not as seriously impaired as what happened in the case of Yolanda. Indeed, if there is one important lesson that the rest of the world can learn from our experience with Yolanda, it is that we cannot make rules and expect all situations to adapt to them, especially when we are dealing with disasters. It is perhaps timely to assess the existing guidelines governing the conduct of PDNAs.

The implementation strategy that underpins RAY is phased, cumulative, and flexible: phased in the sense of responding to critical, immediate needs while planning for a sustained recovery and reconstruction program; cumulative in that successive actions build on earlier recovery and reconstruction efforts; and flexible in the sense that interventions are responsive to new information and changing needs of affected areas.

Over the course of five months after the presentation of Build Back Better, the PDNA was conducted and formally submitted in April by the Office of Civil Defense (OCD). In the meantime, the Office of the Presidential Assistant on Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR), which was created on 6 December 2013, had constituted five clusters to firm up plans for reconstruction and recovery in the areas of infrastructure, housing and resettlement, social services, livelihood, and support.

Some LGUs have also prepared their own recovery and reconstruction plans; those that have been completed are being vetted against the clusters’ plans, the PDNA results, and the initial RAY estimates of damage, losses, and needs. As these plans are approved, they will be consolidated into the comprehensive master plan being prepared by OPARR.

In the meantime, another section is being added to RAY, the Implementation for Results, which discusses the Results Framework for the reconstruction and recovery plan. This will ensure that the reconstruction assistance is anchored on development goals that are attuned with the target outcomes indicated in our Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016.

In a manner of speaking, Yolanda derailed the development plan. The urgent task is to get it back on track.

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