October 13, 2021
The 13th of October is observed annually as the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. This year’s theme is “international cooperation for developing countries to reduce their disaster risk and disaster losses”. The Philippines, just like its counterparts in the Global South, suffers rapid environmental degradation and is vulnerable to climate and environment-related disasters.
The 2020 World Risk Report includes the Philippines in the top 10 countries vulnerable to natural hazards. This is not surprising as it also belongs to the top 10 countries that lack adaptive capacities for such disasters.
Civil society organizations (CSOs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) working on disaster risk response (DRR) are at the forefront of meeting these challenges. They try to bridge the gap and provide assistance to the most vulnerable communities situated in far-flung areas especially in the provinces.
Under the Duterte administration, however, the space for these efforts is being restricted. Community-based disaster response organizations are among those facing State-perpetrated attacks such as red-tagging, smear campaigns, harassment and other human rights violations. Long-standing civil society DRR actors such as the Citizens’ Disaster Response Center (CDRC), Citizens’ Disaster Response Network (CDRN), Leyte Center for Development (LCDe) and others are among those red-tagged and falsely-accused of supporting or financing terrorism.
“These CSOs do not discriminate which communities they serve and give assistance to all in need,” explained Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) spokesperson Liza Maza, “and the government should address poverty and inequalities to resolve the decades-long armed conflict instead of attacking development actors.”
Executive Director of LCDe Jazmin Aguisanda-Jarusalem has been chosen as one of 10 women leaders worldwide in the Excellence category of the United Nations (UN) DRR Women Leadership Awards for 2021. She was among 153 nominees from 22 countries and is the only one from the Philippines. LCDe has already received many local awards including from government bodies for its work. The recognition of CSOs’ efforts by local and international bodies including the UN belie the claim that their activities are meant for destabilization and confirm how they capacitate communities and build their resilience to disasters.
Aguisanda-Jarusalem said that the Duterte administration’s attacks on community-based disaster responders threatens to deprive over 11 million poor people across the Philippines of basic social services like relief aid, livelihood, health care, DRR capacities. LCDe is among the organizations subjected to continuous state-sponsored attacks.
“CSOs have the unwavering courage to serve the people. In the face of increasingly repressive attacks, they remain resolute and continue to reach communities where the government’s response falls short. The thousands of families and beneficiaries they serve is a testament to this.” Maza ended. #