CURRENT SOCIETAL CONCERNS
Ivan Robin M. Limjap
Jolynette A. Javier
Nervill John M. Alvaro
Yasmin Ava Shara Walanda
19 April 2015
(What follows is a position paper addressed to Sec. Dinky Soliman of DSWD, prepared by the above-named students of the Mindanao State University Graduate School, Sustainable Development Studies, in General Santos City. The reform proposed here seeks to improve the way the reporting system during disasters and calamities are currently done by DSWD – E.V.Peria)
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is one of the frontline government agencies in charge during disaster. The National Disaster Response Plan (NDRP) identified the secretary of DSWD as the vice-chairperson on the disaster response. Clusters such as (1) Food and Non-food Items (FNI), and (2) Protection Camp Coordination and Management (PCCM) (Previously, Camp/Internally Displaced Persons Management, Emergency Shelter and Protection) are headed by the agency. These clusters then require the agency to provide accurate, reliable, and timely reports at identified intervals. This task is handled by the Disaster Response Operations Monitoring and Information Center (DROMIC).
M.C. # 03, series of 2013
Memorandum Circular No. 03, series of 2013, entitled Disaster Response Operations Management Information Report states that the DROMIC shall be the unit responsible on consolidation, analysing, and reporting of information on disaster or humanitarian crisis situation. It was also stated that the reports will be used as basis for the declaration of state of calamities, mobilization of resources, and in crafting national disaster response policies. In the said memorandum circular, productivity tools especially MS ACCESS shall be utilized by the unit in the establishment of database. (Attached as Appendix A is a copy of M.C. # 03, series of 2013)
The said memorandum circular directs the Disaster Risk Reduction and Response Operations Office (DRRROO) and the Information and Communications Technology Management Service (ICTMS) to provide technical assistance not only to DROMIC-Central Office but also to DSWD-Field Offices in setting up the database and conduct of hands on training in the use of the productivity tools.
In 2010, the DSWD engaged Peace Corps Response Volunteer George Pornaras in outlining a plan for an enhanced Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Information System (DRRAMIS). Then followed by Karen Grace Lee in January 2013 and worked with the ICTMS team as Web/XML Developer to enhance the two components of DRAMMIS : (1) Relief Goods Inventory Management System (RGIMS) and (2) Enhanced Disaster Reporting System (EDRS). These are tools that monitor relief goods logistics and facilitate disaster data gathering, validation and reporting. It shall assist the DSWD in improving their disaster management operations.
The Enhanced Disaster Response Reporting (EDRS) introduced new tools of disaster reporting wherein DSWD Regional Field Offices’ reporting personnel can submit reports using mobile technology and Open Data kit. These are free and open-source data collection tools for gathering information such as GPS coordinates, images, and disaster statistics on the field. Reports on disaster preparedness, relief, early recovery, and rehabilitation can be submitted to DROMIC using a variety of accessible formats (e.g. Microsoft Excel, web application and a mobile app).
M.C. # 08, series of 2014
DROMIC was originally a unit under the DRRROO until it was transferred to the Office of the Secretary (OSEC) on first quarter of 2014. During this period, memorandum circular number 08, series of 2014 was circulated creating OSEC-DROMIC. The general function of the said unit will lead in the gathering, curating, consolidation, presentation and dissemination of information related to all phases of disaster operations (pre-disaster, disaster implementation, and post-disaster) including any humanitarian response/s, that is undertaken by the department. (Attached as Appendix B is a copy of M.C. # 08, series of 2014)
Specifically, the unit will organize and deploy an information management system (data capture, data processing, data analysis, and data reporting) that generates reliable and accurate pre-disaster, during disaster, and post disaster data. Not only handling the system but also the provision of technical supervision and capacity building interventions over Regional DSWD Field Office counterparts. It was also tasked to coordinate and collaborate with other officials and units of the department, other national government agencies and local government units, and with external partners and stakeholders engaged in disaster operations/humanitarian response activities. And as a monitoring and information center should do, report preparation including info-graphics, briefing materials, and/or other necessary presentation materials are tasked.
The transition period allowed the unit to hire new set of staffs with the hope of filing the gaps in reportorial requirements. Mechanisms for this period was under the Office of the Assistant Secretary for the Office of the Secretary Group (OAS-OSG)’s oversight in partnership with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for the OPG-Protective Programs. Series of training and re-orientation on the EDRS was provided to OSEC-DROMIC team, Disaster Response Unit (DRU), Crisis Intervention Unit (CIU), and other disaster response reporting personnel including beta testing of the system.
Alert levels are pegged into three (3) codes: white (no risk is foreseen), blue (risk is predicted), and red (risk is prevailing). For white alert, DROMIC is expected to provide updates to the secretary and internal loop (offices within the department) every 4AM and 4PM of the day. Preparedness among DSWD regional field offices and other minor incidents that were provided with assistance are reported. For blue and red alerts, reports are expected to provide updates to the secretary and the rest of the loop (both internal and external offices) every 4AM, 10AM, 4PM, and 10PM. It shall cover reports from preparedness, rescue, relief, early recovery, and rehabilitation in which DSWD has provided assistance. Regional field offices are expected to submit reports to DROMIC at least two (2) hours earlier as cut off time prior to the release of DROMIC reports.
Revisions on the reporting templates and updating of common and fundamental operation datasets were handled by the team. After series of consultations with local (internal and external) and international disaster risk reduction and response offices, an approved template of reporting came up responding all reportorial requirements within the department, NDRMMC, and partner agencies. (Attached as Appendix C are the revised templates)
Since these templates are not yet used from the time of approval and accordingly will run another series of testing among field offices, OSEC-DROMIC used the existing report templates. The consolidation of reports is among the most intricate part since these templates, in MS Excel, are reformatted; some formulas and cells are hidden, added, and/or deleted. It added time delays in the production of reports since these things must be double checked. (Attached as Appendix D is a copy of the templates)
By Special Order No. 3904, series of 2014, issued last December 25, 2014, DROMIC was transferred to the Disaster Risk Reduction and Response Operations Office (DRRROO), back to its original office. But directly supervised and monitored by the Assistant Secretary for Protective Programs. (Attached as Appendix E is a copy of this special order)
ISSUES AND CONCERNS
1. DROMIC Reporting Process
The two (2) memorandum circulars states that the unit will be responsible in consolidation, analysing, and reporting of information on disaster or humanitarian crisis situation on all its phases in which the department is taking its part. Good point that the DROMIC is working on its mandate but failed on hitting time schedules for the publishing of reports. The first six (6) hours during the onset of a disaster particularly typhoons is crucial. Affected areas may experience varying problems that may cause delay on the submission of reports from the regional field offices. The two-hour cut off rule is not realized since the delays are also caused by the late submission of Provincial and Municipal/City Local Government Units (LGUs). These are caused by varying report templates used, limited mediums of report submission, telecommunications problem, untrained report officer, and more.
2. Productivity Tools
It is stated in the memorandum circular No. 3, series of 2013 that productivity tools especially MS ACCESS shall be utilized by the unit in the establishment of database. Data banking is a major chunk of work that requires expertise and fast faced decision from the personnel in-charge. Reports and other necessary document coming from regional field offices and partner offices are dumped in a cloud storage facility, in this case is a G-drive, and a local area network server. Currently, a database is administered by DROMIC but not in MS ACCESS format but on MS EXCEL. This provision on the policy may be given good consideration by the program manager of DROMIC since MS ACCESS has features that are not present in MS EXCEL and is designed solely for data banking. It has features that can provide levels of access and security to reports; though the policy does not limit the options.
Other mediums of reporting such as ODK-Collect and web-based reporting are among the means used in RGIMS and EDRS but are not yet rolled out since the time it was prepared. Failure to establish a procedure of data banking and reporting will cause (1) difficulty in culling out certain type of incident from the past that might be needed in the future, (2) difficulty in integrating and consolidating reports, (3) formulas of unsecured report templates may be hided, added, and/or deleted, (4) loss of files/reports, and a lot more worst case scenarios. These issues are deemed to be addressed with the implementation of RGIMS and EDRS.
Accordingly, DROMIC reports will be used as basis for the declaration of state of calamities, mobilization of resources, and in crafting national disaster response policies. Therefore, DROMIC shall have lower margin of errors in calculations, considerable delay of reports, and as much as possible lower chances of misinformation from the ground. These reports are essential ingredient in manufacturing the type of response that national agencies will carry through affected communities. Once there is error in data and delay in producing it, all other aspects will be affected negatively.
• The policy allowed the creation of positions and hiring of staffs on the central office’s level but did not create a counterpart on the level of Regional Field Offices. It has been an additional workload either to the planning officer and/or personnel in-charge. The bulk of work load during this disaster/humanitarian period goes with the consolidation, validation, and culling of valid and necessary data. Regional Offices have the responsibility to screen raw data coming from affected LGUs and must take a zero tolerance to errors. A policy could then be created to resolve the difficulty faced at the regional level. A counterpart unit at the may be created in which DROMIC can coordinate with. It will reduce the delays in submission of reports since it will not go through approvals of different units. In addition, an identified staff making disaster response reporting as a separate workload will not result to burn out, then lower productivity as longer effect, among staff.
• The policy (M.C. # 08, series of 2014) states the organization and deployment of information management system and it must be done. Perhaps, A pilot testing of RGIMS and EDRS at a specific region could be carried out to find out if these mediums would fit or not. Anyway, there is no perfect system from its first launch. Only then we can identify the items for revision.
• The role of this unit is vital and a defined policy on its functions must be clear upon the department, partner agencies, and the DROMIC team. The policy is a guide to the personnel as to where the unit is directed. It is proposed that the provisions on these circulars be further defined by a core group. Terms used in the circulars released must be clear at least within the DROMIC to avoid confusion and misinterpretation. Some of the provisions must be followed unless proven to cause negative impact on the implementation.
With the nearing implementation of sustainable development goals in the later part of 2015, disaster risk reduction crosses not only one but all 17 goals directly and indirectly. Disaster response reporting will provide directions not only in the provision of social welfare but also in the concentration of resources, future economic partnerships, environmental protection, and societal movements. With these reports, DSWD can directly address the battle against poverty, hunger, food security, nutrition, and well-being of Filipinos. Furthermore, gender equality and empowerment of women & the marginalized sectors can be addressed with programs and projects. Indirectly, DSWD can provide comprehensive contributions in achieving sustainable agriculture, inclusive and equitable quality education, sustainable management of resources – land, water, air and ecosystem, sanitation, and energy. In the larger perspective, substantial data from these reports can aid other line government agencies in the promotion of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth with disaster-resilient infrastructure, safer and sustainable human settlements, sustainable production and consumption, and revitalized global partnership for sustainable development.
Challenges may take place in the most unexpected moments but DSWD has been known to provide Filipinos with honest (matapat), gentle (magiliw), and excellent (mahusay) services.