Typhoon Koppu exposes PNP's lack of funds for first responders

Typhoon Koppu exposes PNP's lack of funds for first responders
A resident looks for recyclable materials amidst strong waves due to Typhoon Koppu in Manila Bay, October 18, 2015.
PHOTO: Reuters

The Philippine National Police has learned a lesson from Typhoon "Lando" (international name: Koppu): It needs to have a budget for disaster gear, too.

PNP Director General Ricardo Marquez plans to ask for such a fund from the Department of Budget Management (DBM) for fiscal year 2017, noting that the police have been on the frontlines of rescue and response operations in typhoon-affected areas the past few days.

"What the DBM funds in the PNP are two major (operations)-crime prevention and crime solution. But (during calamities), the police are the first responders. So we'd like to pitch in for that third (operation)," Marquez told reporters.

"Other units have a humanitarian assistance and disaster response component. There is money to fund those activities. In the case of the PNP, there is none. We use the funds for crime prevention and law enforcement operations," Marquez said.

All year round

"For 2017, we'd like to request a budget for these operations. In reality, disaster preparedness and response happen the whole year round. I think we'll be able to convince the DBM to provide us money for these activities."

Marquez said equipment and gear used by the police for disaster response were usually donated by local government units. Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento echoed Marquez' call.

"If the Armed Forces of the Philippines has a human and disaster response (HADR) component, it's high time we had such a unit so we could fund it separately without eating up the regular (expenses) to maintain peace and order," Sarmiento told reporters.

Sarmiento noted that the police presence proved a big help to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

"There's a huge improvement in the reporting of the PNP because now they include photos," Sarmiento said. ''Now we see right away if the (weather prediction) is confirmed. We have an idea of what's happening on the ground."

Marquez agreed.

"The data provided by technical people are crossmatched with the reports submitted by our police units. It gives our decision-makers a better picture of what's happening on the ground," Marquez said.

Commendations

"We validate the situation on the ground so the decision-makers at the NDRRMC would have a better handle of the situation (and) suitable intervention could be made."

The PNP's efforts to help those affected by Lando have not been lost on the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

"We are preparing commendations for units that helped and showed heroism, risked their lives to rescue their countrymen. We are also looking at how to improve their equipment and welfare," Sarmiento said.

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