USEC. RICARDO B. JALAD
Photography by Ivan Llaneta
Usec. Ricardo B. Jalad of OCD and NDRRMC believes in the power of preparing ahead—and cultivating the culture of disaster risk reduction in every single way
Disasters are inevitable occurrences, whether these are natural or man-made. Such phenomena happen in the Philippines more often than in the other parts of the world due to its location within the Pacific Ring of Fire. Thus, disaster risk reduction and management is of high importance—one that the Philippine government puts great attention to.
Frontlining in this disaster protection task is the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) administrator and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Undersecretary Ricardo B. Jalad. As the orchestrator of the overall interagency coordination, he brings decades of experience, having been trained in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
A NATURAL TRANSITION
“I was thrust in this position by President [Duterte] a few days before he formally assumed his seat,” Usec. Jalad shares of how he came to the position some four years ago. After the former Brigadier General of the AFP retired from his military duties in 2015, he dedicated his time to helping President Rodrigo Duterte during the elections.
“My motivation then was really to have somebody from Mindanao as president,” he explains. “I did not expect to be appointed to help him. In fact, towards the end of the campaign period, I was able to find another job, but I wasn’t able to assume the position because I was prepared to finish the campaign period.”
A few words from the President ultimately convinced him to take the Undersecretary post. “You helped me get elected, now help me run this government,” is both a request and a gesture of trust. So he said yes—and fast forward to present, Usec. Jalad leads his operations smoothly and efficiently.
He admits that he had to adjust when he first assumed the post, as he wasn’t used to handling civilians. “The military has a different culture than a civilian sector,” the Undersecretary points out. However, the mindset of having a central direction and following the chain of command, which Usec. Jalad took to heart from the military and to his present job, made the shift less challenging.
Usec. Jalad shares how, back when he was wearing the soldier uniform, his exposure to disaster response is limited to humanitarian assistance. Now, the OCD chief aims to approach every undertaking in a holistic way. He realizes the significance of a comprehensive actionable plan when it comes to providing solutions, like investing more on prevention.
The role of the coordinator might sound like an easy job, but when you’re handling several agencies that need to work seamlessly together especially when disasters strike, fulfilling it is not a simple feat. To assure the resolution of all issues concerned, the Undersecretary doesn’t shy away from doing the groundwork himself.
A hands-on chief, he is seen at the frontlines during operations to provide leadership and support to regional counterparts. His people describe him as down-to-earth and humble, an operations head who knows everyone by the name and is genuinely concerned for their welfare.
Under Usec. Jalad, OCD and NDRRMC’s affairs run effectively. “Mission-oriented ako. I live to accomplish my mission,” he says. “But nando’n din ‘yung soft side. We cannot accomplish the mission kung hindi natin inaalagaan ang ating mga tao. So dapat, balanced.”
RESPONSE, RECOVERY, REHABILITATION
Since his appointment, Usec. Jalad and his team have encountered several major disasters, including typhoons Ferdie and Lawin in 2016; Ompong, Usman, and Rosita in 2018; and Tisoy and Ursula in 2019. The past four years also witnessed the Marawi Siege in 2017, a series of earthquakes in the areas of Tulunan, North Cotabato in 2019, and the Taal Volcano eruption early this year, before the pandemic took place.
When it comes to preparation, the office is increasing the existing measures to better improve the preparations should another disaster occur, especially with the ongoing pandemic being taken into consideration. After all, they aim to avoid casualties brought upon by both disasters and the contagious virus.
Just recently, the NDRRMC issued multiple memos outlining preparedness measures during the rainy season; updating contingency and public service continuity plans, and interim guidelines on the virtual Nationwide Simultaneous Earthquake Drill. The agency is also conducting a series of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) webinars through the official OCD online platforms to educate the public. NDRRMC, through OCD, is also set to hold a blended training program for DRRM officers to advance their capacities.
In September, NDRRMC through OCD launched the Public Service Continuity Plan (PSCP) Guidebook to guide government offices in the formulation of their PSCP. Simulation exercises (SIMEX) were also held with the participation of high-ranking government officials, which focused on the occurrence of the magnitude 7.2 earthquake—or what is commonly known as “The Big One”—and another on the Taal Volcano eruption worst case scenario.
Still part of their preparedness efforts, NDRRMC also has contingency plans for the National Disaster Response Plans (NDRP), Greater Metropolitan Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study, and the Harmonized Contingency Plan for the Magnitude 7.2 Earthquake in Metro Manila. Moreover, PreDisaster Risk Assessment meetings are held to discuss possible effects of a typhoon.
In response to the recent earthquakes in the Southern part of the country, NDRRMC is quick to release advisories and message alerts, as well as conduct close monitoring of the affected areas through the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils (RDRRMC). They also organized a massive relief operation to send needed supplies, such as tents, food packs, mobile water treatment facilities, and hygiene kits to the affected areas through the pooling of resources and organization of logistics support.
Meanwhile, should a quake occur, NDRRMC has all the bases covered. The office takes advantage of modern technology to assist them in every way—from the regular text alerts to advanced monitoring in their Operations Center which facilitates the coordination flow, warning dissemination, and other mechanisms crucial in response and recovery.
They rely on the expertise of other agencies, too, to fulfill the needed tasks should the occasion arise. For instance, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is in-charge of ensuring enough family food packs supply, while the Department of Health (DOH) is tasked to provide basic medicines and health services in evacuation centers.
When it comes to flood control measures, especially in Metro Manila, they work hand-in-hand with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and other relevant agencies and LGUs. The center of the country has been suffering from rising water level the past decades, and NDRRMC would like to see to it that these issues are properly addressed. They have certainly learned from their experience during Typhoon Ondoy in 2009. Aside from the sewage rehabilitation projects, they have also carried out waterway easement projects in the Pasig and Marikina rivers. They have likewise worked with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for relocation of those living in vulnerable areas as well as the regular cleaning and clearing operations of drainages.
THE PRESENT COURSE
The COVID-19 further added to the country’s pressing concerns. Of course, the teams in OCD and NDRRMC are required to tackle this issue as well.
The office values transparency in the management of donations. Thus they created a donation tracker found on their website. There were also improvements in developing rehabilitation and recovery plans, in which the processes have been streamlined and the coordination to assist LGUs and line-agencies strengthened. The continuing capacity building efforts are being taken care of through the migration of activities to online platforms. Did you get any of those disaster alerts during calamities? Usec. Jalad’s office was also responsible for those. Meanwhile, over 100 dedicated evacuation centers across the country have been built and are now being used by our kababayans in times of emergency; some are being used as COVID-19 facilities
Despite all these efforts, though, Usec. Jalad stresses the importance of everyone’s participation in disaster preparedness in order to build disaster-resilient communities. “Encourage everyone to continuously engage in DRRM programs and activities and to educate themselves and practice appropriate preparedness measures,” he urges everyone.
“In this time of the pandemic, it is also essential that we follow all the health protocols to ensure the safety of self, family, and community. Our cooperation with authorities will contribute to our eventual triumph against the disease,” he further adds.
Eventually, it all boils down to one thing—embracing the culture of preparedness, no matter what kind of situation arises.