Informal assessment after Frank
by: N Magno

By simple triangulation of data from LGU, NGO and RDL, I just summarized key points that might be useful to RDL-CLEAR for its funding initiatives in Romblon after Frank. I had 3 basic questions: 1) the extent of damage after Frank, 2) short-term initiatives, 3) long-term initiatives. The method is repeatable and can be done by anyone who would like to add to or improve the data. I would suggest that others do so in order to strengthen and systematize Romblon-relevant data (something the province needs too).

My limitations: first, i wasn't able to visit the municipalities myself because of my schedule in Manila; secondly, my contacts were limited (I mostly relied on Uncle Ish's contacts and those in RDL, then I snowballed from there).  

Maybe in the future, RDL-CLEAR might also consider getting someone who can do data gathering full time - to visit every municipality, do more systematic sampling, and to give the data on time. (So sorry this one's delayed, I had to attend to other duties.) Then RDL-CLEAR can be more sure where it is best to put funding.  

Three things: 

1) Overall Damage after Frank - the kind and extent of damage 

There were discrepancies in two data sources of the number of "affected persons / households." The first was the initial damage report shared with us by the Office of the Governor on June 22, 2008. The second was a partial report of the damages from the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council, dated July 4, 2008 (13 days after the storm). I am unaware of how the first report derived its estimates. The subsequent report, however, was obtained from social workers who did site visits per barangay, submitted their data to the barangay disaster coordinating councils, which were compiled by the municipal disaster coordinating councils, which was what the PDCC compiled.  

The discrepancies in data from these government reports are stark. According to initial assessments, the three priority municipalities were Concepcion, Banton and Corcuera. However, according to the subsequent assessment, the three priority municipalities were Corcuera, Calatrava and San Fernando. Other municipalities dropped in ranking drastically, like Banton (2nd to 13th) and Concepcion (1st to 17th). Accordingly, others moved up in ranking drastically too, like Calatrava (15th to 2nd) and Looc (10th to 4th). I will not attempt to explain the discrepancies, only to show the difficulty of using these as a solid basis for prioritizing funding. Without RDL-CLEAR's own data, it was a safe move to distribute funds equally to all municipalities. 

What other NGOs do is conduct their own site visitation and implement their own survey instruments, which measure "affected" persons / households according to their own criteria (depending on their particular advocacy). For example, Christian Aid looked for "vulnerable" households not just in terms of damages, but also their ability to cope (e.g., not having family members in Manila or abroad). 

Damages in agriculture, livestock and fisheries were estimated by government to be between 25-35 million pesos. To say that major industries and livelihood in Romblon were affected is definitely an understatement. Although locales immediately began rehabilitating land, it would take between 1.5-6 months for them to harvest, eat their own vegetables and crops, and sell them. That is, between August 2008 to January 2009. The storm destroyed many fishing boats too. And to add to this the fish scare brought to the province by the sunken ferry containing a considerable amount of the toxic endosulfan pesticide near Sibuyan, which is near the Romblon channel, the habitat of Romblon's rare marine life (e.g., sea turtle, giant clam, whale shark) All in all, people cannot rely on their usual livelihood and are facing the real threat of hunger. And because compromised nourishment means compromised health, people face illness and disease too. Until they can return to their normal livelihoods, they rely on relief goods (rice, noodles, canned sardines) and medical help. Beyond nourishment, prolonged relief initiatives and dole outs also create issues of dependency among people. 

In terms of infrastructure - public plazas and halls, school buildings, roads, telecommunication facilities, and water facilities - estimated damages (by PDCC) cost at least 130 million pesos. The roads are important to transport relief goods, telecommunication facilities to transmit important information from the province. 

2) Initiatives after Frank 

The general picture I got was that local governments distributed packed relief goods from the DSWD, Red Cross, and other national government officials to affected families (based on the list provided by MSWD and BDCC). They also extended financial assistance to people whose houses were damaged - for example, P500 for partially damaged homes and P1000 for totally damaged homes. This comes from their calamity fund, which they also have to save for the next few months should other strong storms occur. Some LGUs have distributed seeds for replanting. Some medicines were also distributed. They are also beginning to repair infrastructure. Having been declared by the national government as an area of calamity shoud have implications to relief and financial assistance in Romblon as well, but I have no data regarding this. 

There are three main NGOs (funded by international organizations) who have been extending relief and attempting to conduct more long-term projects to help. First is Christian Aid working with Sibuyan ISLE in the three municipalities of Sibuyan Island. They have given and are continuing to give relief goods (food and non-food) to affected people (using their own criteria). They are also looking into more long-term projects for Sibuyan. There is SIKAT Foundation, which has been around for 4 years doing coastal resource management activities in Romblon capital, also Sta. Maria and San Agustin. Aside from assistance given to fisherfolk, after Frank they did a community garden project to help ease the threat of hunger from the fish scare. Lastly, there's Accion Contra El Hambre, which we hear has given relief goods to Corcuera and Banton (to be confirmed). 

Aside from RDL-CLEAR, there are also several organizations and groups (receiving funding from individual donors and other groups) that are helping their areas in Romblon: Romblon Baliktatap (for Romblon Capital), Kusog Sibalenhon (for Sibale), overseas Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, Romblon alumni now based in Manila, etc. They have distributed relief goods (food and non-food) and conducted medical missions. 

Even NGOs funded by international organizations see the immensity of funding required by providing relief goods to Romblon from 1.5 to 6 months after Frank. They are therefore looking into more long-term and sustainable projects with which local communities can sustain themselves. Moreover, even Sibuyan, which received the most attention and most organized initiatives of relief, was observed by its locals to still need help because of the damages. In this light, it becomes important to work together and more systematically. 

Looking at all these initiatives, I also noticed that two things were crucial: 1) having people on the ground to make a thorough assessment of target populations and to implement initiatives, 2) having sufficient funding to conduct one's planned initiative OR having a solid plan of initiatives in order to maximize limited funding. 

3) Future Prospects: Building on Capabilities 

I've already mentioned the threat of dependency from prolonged relief and dole outs on the people of Romblon. So while extending temporary relief, it is imperative for locals to get help from government and non-government organizations to develop their own skills with which they can manage crises like typhoons. It reinforces self-sufficiency and gives a sense of accomplishment / achievement and empowerment to people. This would counter the victimized feeling we all get when struck by a calamity. The community garden in Calatrava is a concrete example of what can be done by the local people for themselves. This should be discussed by RDL-CLEAR, defining all the steps of the process - guidelines for funding, sourcing and distributing agricultural materials, securing more or less permanent land (major issue), community participation and ownership, reporting to funders.

 Capability-wise, Romblon organizations also have much to learn. Christian Aid + Sibuyan ISLE and SIKAT Foundation have very meticulous procedures for assessing problems, initiating action, coordinating action, allocating funding, and reporting to their funders. They also employ full-time specialists (field persons, NGO workers, community organizers) to implement their particular goals with consistency.  

Organizations like RDL-CLEAR, although heavily relying on volunteerism, can work with these bigger organizations. First, it can extend its limited funding to the specific projects of these organizations. Secondly, it can link up with these organizations through its volunteers and receive training (e.g., in community organizing, setting up coastal management projects, etc.) from these organizations. RDL-CLEAR can network with various organizations through the Philippine INGO forum, which provides financial and advisory support to organizations like RDL-CLEAR. (Visit: Find particular projects or problem areas and find the organizations who specialize in them. There, you might also find funding and other support.

 There is also room for the local and provincial governments to improve. This is a very neutral observation. With so many social problems, the demands on the state keep increasing. It is but natural. Good news is this can be achieved, but with a little less partisanship and a greater view of Romblon's overall and long-term welfare.