21 March 2019 (ILIGAN CITY) – The province of Lanao del Sur launched today a new and more powerful early response network (ERN) involving local disaster risk reduction and management officers (LDRRMO) from 39 municipalities and one city that will share information using advanced technologies and work together to prevent violent conflict, disasters, and displacement.
The provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office of Lanao del Sur, the Lanao del Sur-wide rescue group SARACAN, and supported by peacebuilding NGO International Alert Philippines established the network to secure real-time information that is needed to prevent, counter, and adapt to emergencies and coordinate with relevant political authorities at the local, provincial, and national level, civil society organizations, traditional leaders, and other stakeholders. The system monitors tensions and critical events at the first instance, to prevent these from erupting into violent flashpoints.
“The Marawi siege has taught as that we should strengthen ourselves and evolve into more responsive disaster and conflict risk reduction management officers. We also need to create the rules and protocols for human-induced disasters, not just natural calamities,” said Saripada “Tong” Pacasum, Jr., LDRRMO-IV of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office of Lanao del Sur.
In 2017, the ISIS-linked Maute terror group overtook the provincial capital, launching a five-month siege which decimated the city center, killed more than a thousand, and displaced some 300,000 people.
Pacasum led some his staff and SARACAN volunteers to aid the rescue and recovery operations of the military, saving some 1,700 lives.
“Looking back, I know that we could have helped avert the war, saved more lives, and prevented the suffering of our people if we already had a system to pool and piece together relevant information on the ground,” Pacasum said.
“With the ERN, we are committed to help avert violence by harnessing this wealth of actionable information and to come up with immediate and appropriate responses to violent conflict, as well as long-term initiatives that promote peace in communities,” he added.
The ERN will use International Alert’s Critical Events Monitoring System (CEMS), an SMS-based reporting system that captures violent conflict incidents and tensions that arise in communities and coordinates prompt multi-stakeholder response to emergencies and potential flashpoints.
Local response to conflict
“It is the local people who are closest and most vulnerable to conflict, and they are also the ones who have the knowledge, capability, and agency to resolve issues that challenge them at the local level,” Nikki de la Rosa, International Alert Country Manager said.
De la Rosa emphasized the ERN mechanism goes beyond recommending a security-centric approach to violent conflict. Instead, it “ puts premium and harnesses traditional, formal, and hybrid institutions and arrangements” to prevent conflict.
“Since 2010, International Alert has been establishing ERNs across Muslim Mindanao composed of multiple stakeholders in building conflict-resilient communities. We involve traditional, religious, and clan leaders, alongside local governments, who all have a key role in resolving clan feuds and resource conflicts in Muslim Mindanao. We involve women and the youth who lead community change projects that promote their participation in economic activities and governance. We also involve the business sector in our advocacy of fighting discrimination in the workplace based on religious and cultural beliefs and in espousing conflict-sensitive practices in areas where they operate,” de la Rosa shared.
“The ERN recognizes, facilitates, and strengthens these locally-rooted mechanisms that have proven to be effective in alleviating people’s vulnerabilities and prepares them for emerging threats such as violent extremism,” she explained.
De la Rosa also said that having an ERN in Lanao del Sur is an important step in consolidating efforts to support the peace process in the critical period of Marawi’s rehabilitation and the transition to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
During the launch, members of the ERN signed a manifesto, stating their commitment in sharing information and “championing inclusive, innovative, and conflict sensitive ways of responding to the needs of communities, cities and municipalities, and the entire province in times of crisis.”