Civil Defense as prime mover of DRRM


Office of Civil Defense (OCD) is usually mistaken as an agency or office that is sole responsible for the conduct of Search, Rescue, and Retrieval (SRR) operations; whereas civil defense officers are assumed to be responders or rescuers. Sometimes, it is understood to be related with military services or mistaken to be involved in giving legal advice or someone who is practicing law.

These are just some of the common misconceptions about OCD. And for us to have a better understanding about this agency, let us first trace its history.

Sixty-four years ago, the concept of ‘civil defense’ emanated through Republic Act 1190 or the Civil Defense Act. It was August 1954 when the National Civil Defense Administration (NCDA) was established.

In 1972, NCDA was abolished and transferred its functions and personnel to the Office of Civil Defense. After less than six years, Presidential Decree 1566 prompted the creation of National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) in June 1978.

More than 40 years later, the Republic Act 10121 or the Philippine DRRM Act was enacted on May 27, 2010 for the establishment of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). Under section 8 and 9 of the said law, OCD was defined, including its powers and functions.

So given these, where is OCD in the NDRRMC? What is the difference between OCD and the NDRRMC? How does the system works?

Stipulated in RA10121, Civil Defense is only one of the 44 member agencies of the NDRRMC. It is the council’s executive, implementing, and operating arm working as the secretariat. It is also dubbed as the prime mover of DRRM in the country.

Some of its functions specified in the law are to: (1) provide DRRM training and capacity-building activities; (2) provide technical assistance to stakeholders; (3) establish and man a 24/7 emergency operations center; (4) supervise other agencies including Local Government Units (LGUs) to ensure that they give top priority in taking adequate and appropriate measures in DRRM.

In a way, yes, OCD is helping in rescue operations, not as responders but as the lead of the Logistics and the Emergency Telecommunications Clusters.

Because in the cluster approach of the National Disaster Response Plan (NDRP), there are 11 response clusters with different areas of activities. For example, SRR is being led by the army and police, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) is in charge with the Management of the Dead and Missing (MDM), while food and non-food items including management of evacuation centers are assigned to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) along with other agencies.

OCD is also mistaken as an agency providing military services maybe because OCD is one of the five bureaus of the Department of National Defense (DND) together with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Indeed, the DRRM system itself is somehow complex, not to mention its four thematic areas, but it was formed to advocate proactive stance.

To make it simpler, imagine NDRRMC as a choir with 44 members (these are the agencies), so where is OCD in the picture? It serves as the conductor making sure that the 43 other member agencies are working harmoniously towards safer, adaptive, disaster-resilient nation.