The province of Benguet and, more recently, the City of Baguio have declared a state of calamity due to the damages caused by Typhoon Egay. Benguet’s resolution no. 2023-688 placed the province under a state of calamity, while Baguio City’s Resolution No. 494, Series of 2023, did the same for the city.
But what does this declaration mean under Philippine laws? Here’s a comprehensive guide to understanding the state of calamity in the Philippines.
The Legal Background
Under the helm of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Republic Act 10121 was enacted, or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010. This law provides for the Framework of the National Risk Reduction Management which includes the declaration of the state of calamity.
What is a State of Calamity?
According to Republic Act 10112 a state of calamity is a condition involving mass casualty and/or major damages to property, disruption of means of livelihoods, roads and normal way of life of people in the affected areas as a result of the occurrence of natural or human-induced hazard.
This further means a state of calamity is a legal declaration that empowers public officials to respond swiftly to emergencies and disasters. It is invoked when substantial damage or disruption necessitates urgent measures to restore normalcy and provide relief.
Who has the power to declare a State of Calamity?
- The President of the Philippines can declare a state of calamity for the entire country or for a specific area. The declaration of a state of calamity by the President is based on the recommendation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). The NDRRMC is composed of representatives from the national government, local government units, and civil society organizations.
- The Sanggunian of an LGU can declare a state of calamity for the area under its jurisdiction. The declaration of a state of calamity by the Sanggunian is based on the recommendation of the local disaster risk reduction and management council (LDRRMC). The LDRRMC is composed of representatives from the LGU, the NDRRMC, and other stakeholders.
What Happens During the Declaration of State of Calamity?
- Appropriation for calamity funds. The national government will appropriate funds to help the affected areas recover from the disaster. These funds can be used to repair damaged infrastructure, provide food and shelter to displaced people, and support other relief and recovery efforts.
- Price freeze for basic necessities. The government will impose a price freeze on basic necessities such as food, water, and fuel. This is to prevent prices from skyrocketing and make it even harder for people to recover from the disaster.
- Granting of no-interest loans. The government may also grant no-interest loans to businesses and individuals who have been affected by the disaster. This will help them get back on their feet financially.
- Suspension of certain laws and regulations. The government may suspend certain laws and regulations in order to expedite relief and recovery efforts. For example, the government may suspend the need for permits to build temporary shelters or to import relief goods.
Acts that are prohibited during a state of calamity
- Hoarding and profiteering. This is the act of buying goods in large quantities in order to sell them at a higher price. This is prohibited during a state of calamity because it can lead to shortages of essential goods and services and can drive up prices.
- Selling of relief goods above the suggested retail price. This is also prohibited during a state of calamity. The government may impose a price freeze on essential goods and services during a state of calamity, and selling them above the suggested retail price is considered a violation of this law.
- Misappropriation of relief goods. This is the act of taking relief goods that are intended for disaster victims and using them for personal gain. This is a serious crime and can result in imprisonment.
- Preventing or delaying the entry or distribution of relief goods. This is also prohibited during a state of calamity. The government may designate certain areas as relief goods corridors, and anyone who prevents or delays the entry or distribution of relief goods in these areas may be penalized.
- Illegal solicitations. This is the act of soliciting money or goods for disaster victims without the proper authorization. This is prohibited during a state of calamity because it can lead to fraud and abuse.
- Buying for consumption or resale, from disaster relief agencies any relief goods, equipment, or other commodities which are intended for distribution to disaster-affected communities.
- Buying for consumption or resale, from the recipient disaster-affected persons any relief goods, equipment, or other aid commodities received by them.
- Reselling or giving away relief goods intended for disaster victims in exchange for money or other goods or services.
- Receiving payment for relief goods that are intended to be free of charge to disaster victims.
- Obstructing or interfering with the delivery or distribution of relief goods.
- Any act that causes or contributes to the spread of the disaster.
- Any act that endangers the safety of the people.
- Any act that interferes with the relief and recovery efforts.
How is a State of Calamity terminated?
The state of calamity is terminated:
- By the President. The President can terminate a state of calamity for the entire country or for a specific area. The termination of a state of calamity by the President is based on the recommendation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
- By the sanggunian of a local government unit (LGU). The sanggunian of an LGU can terminate a state of calamity for the area under its jurisdiction. The termination of a state of calamity by the sanggunian is based on the recommendation of the local disaster risk reduction and management council (LDRRMC).
The termination of a state of calamity is usually done when the following conditions are met:
- The disaster has been effectively managed and the affected areas have been restored to normalcy.
- The resources that were allocated for the relief and recovery efforts have been utilized.
- The government is confident that it can continue to provide the necessary assistance to the affected areas without declaring a state of calamity.
The declaration of a state of calamity is a critical legal measure that enables the Philippine government to respond effectively to disasters and emergencies. It not only facilitates immediate relief and recovery efforts but also ensures that the rights and welfare of the affected population are protected. Understanding the intricacies of this declaration, from its legal basis to the responsibilities and prohibitions it entails, is essential for both authorities and citizens. As recent events in Benguet and Baguio City have shown, being well-informed about these provisions can lead to a more coordinated and compassionate response, ultimately aiding in the swift restoration of normalcy in the wake of a disaster.