(A Summary of the Presentation Paper for the First Shanghai, Manila and Kobe Tri-Cities Meeting on Disaster Prevention, 26-27 January 2000, Kobe, Japan)




Metropolitan Manila is a Special Administrative Region in the Philippines. It is situated in the Island of Luzon and has a land areas of 636 square kilometers. Its population is approximately 9.5 million based on the National Census in 1995 and projections indicate that it will reach 10 million by the end of this year. The population density is around 14, 870 person per square kilometers.


Metro Manila, also known as the National Capital Region (NRC) of the Philippines, is the seat of political, economic, and the social activities of the country. Situated in the metropolis are huge infrastructures like the Skyway and Metro Rail Transit projects, and investments concentrated in the Makati and Ortigas financial centers. There are twelve (12) cities and five (5) municipalities or town comprising Metro Manila. Their respective Local Government Units (LGUs) headed by an elected Mayor, administer the affairs of these cities and municipalities. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), on the other hand, formulates, coordinates, and implements programs that have metro-wide application and significance. The MMDA is a unique government agency created by virtue of Republic Act No. 7924 and is attached to the office of the President of the Republic of Philippines.


Natural and man-made hazards occur affect Metro Manila in varying degrees and frequencies. Tropical Cyclones, monsoon rains, and fires are those hazards that extol heavy damage yearly. Earthquakes, while lesser in frequency, have also caused damages and loss of lives in the city over the past 50 years. The magnitude scale = 7.8 Luzon earthquake in July 16, 1990 which devastated northern Luzon also created major ground shaking, minor damage to buildings and subsidence in reclaimed areas in Metro Manila. The infamous earthquake that caused the total collapse of the six-storey Ruby Tower in 1968 with a magnitude of 7.0 in the Richter Scale and a number of major building located north and south of the Pasig River incurred moderated to serve nonstructural and structural damages.


With the rapidly growing population, high intensity economic activities and uncontrolled developments, environmental concerns specially, solid waste management and air population control has become major priorities.



Disaster Management concerns in Metro Manila is addressed at the following political levels:

1.        Community or barangay level

2.        City or municipal level, and

3.        Metropolitan or regional level


The barangay is the lowest political organization in the Philippines and is primarily tasked with addressing management concerns within their geographical jurisdiction as stipulated in the national strategy. Each city or municipalities is composed of several barangays. In cases wherein the magnitude of disasters goes beyond the capacity of the community resources, the LGU takes over their responsibility or provides the necessary support.


The MMDA, as mandated by its charter, acts as the governmentfs arm in coordinating disaster management activities in Metro Manila It is the lead agency of The Metropolitan Manila Disaster Coordinating Council (MMDCC). This is embodied in Presidential Decree 1566 that was promulgated on June 11, 1978 defining the Philippines Strategy to cope with disasters. The MMDCC, which is composed of representatives from various National Government Agencies and some of the private organizations operating in NCR, serves as the conduit between the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) and Metro Manila LGUs insofar as management is concerned. This is in line with the principles of : (1) self-reliance, (2) mutual assistance, (3) resource complementation, and (4) multi-disciplinary approach.


The disaster management thrusts of MMDA and MMDCC are :

1.        Emergency Preparedness and Response Capacity-Building,

2.        safety Advocacy and Accident Prevention,

3.        Disaster Consciousness and Education, and

4.        Disaster Mitigation


It is envisioned that, through the above-enumerated thrusts, Metropolitan Manila will become less vulnerable to disasters.



In order to realize the vision that has been set, the MMDA, the national agencies constituting the MMDCC, and the Metro Manila LGUs complement each other in implementing disaster management programs in line with the thrusts. The following activities are currently being undertaken:

l         Disaster Preparedness through Public Awareness, Education, Planning, and Drills and Demonstrations

l         Emergency Response Capacity-Building through organization and training of disaster control groups, response planning and rehearsals, institutionalization of emergency response network, and development of protocols and standards

l         Disaster Control through the provision of essential services and needs to affected communities, mobilization of emergency resource and coordination to evacuation, search, rescue, recovery, and relief operations wherever there is a prevailing hazards, disaster, or emergency incidents

l         Disaster Prevention and Mitigation through studies, researches and hazards and disaster information dissemination; Warning and advisories; evacuation of people from risk areas, formulation of policies, standards, rules and regulations; and structures inspections and retrofitting

l         Rehabilitation and Recovery Assistance through financial support and technical assistance.


Implementation of the above-mentioned programs is done through the cooperation and collaboration of efforts by the various levels and of governance and sector. Each level or sector shares their resource and expertise in the conduct of disaster management activities in the metropolis. Even the private enterprises (e.g. Chinese Fire Brigade), non-government organizations (e.g. ABS-CBN Foundation Inc., a giant media network) and volunteers (e.g. Mozart, mountaineers volunteers) play active roles.


The tasks of each organization are defined under existing emergency preparedness and response plans formulated for Metro Manila.




The disaster management activities that have been undertaken by the different agencies constituting MMDCC are:

l         Structural Inspections and retrofitting – annual activity of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to all bridges and fly-overs, e.g. Nagtahan Fly-over; and Guadalupe, Del Pan, Quezon, and Ayala bridges

l         Drainage systems clearing, reconstruction, and flood Control facilities maintenance – the MMDA in collaboration with DPWH work on clearing and dredging of canals, rivers and others waterways, e.g. Marikina River, Pasig River, Navotas River, Taguig River, etc.

l         Removal, relocation and evacuation of settlers from risk areas – relocation of about 2,000 informal settlers from Maricaban, Pasay City to Cavite

l         Hazards Awareness and Disaster Consciousness projects – July 1-7 of every years declared as Disaster Consciousness Week; demonstration on Rescue and Evacuation, First Aid and Pre-emergency Care; giving awards to personnel that do heroic acts in cases of emergencies.

l         Capacity-building to improve emergency response-emergency response personnel undergo rigid training on rescue and evacuation, helicopter and high-rise building rappels, first aid, underwater rescue operation, etc.

l         Emergency Preparedness Training and Disaster Management Seminars -  e.g. Volvo Philippines sponsored training for 147 students

l         Enforcement of Standards and Rules on Structures, Land Use, and Zoning – e.g. national Building Code; Metro Manila Zoning Ordinance 81-01

l         Review and update of current laws and codes with safety implications – Fire Codes of the Philippines and National Building Code

l         Preparedness and Response Plans Formulation, Review and Updating


The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) being the lead agency of disaster management efforts in Manila undertakes or accomplished the following:

l         Instituted a 24-hour Emergency Response System and upgrade the existing Metro manila Emergency Operations Control and Coordinating Center (upgraded in terms of equipment and vehicle support)

l         Developed and implementation emergency response training modules (eight modules for LGUs, NGOs, MMDA and students)

l         Conducted emergency drills and training of around 4,000 students, educators, traffic enforcement officers, armed forces reservists, drivers, and others

l         Proposed legislative amendments regarding the utilization of the Calamity Fund for proactive measures (e.g. R.A 8185 states that 5% Calamity Fund can only be used in time of emergency, the proposal is to amend this provision so that this fund can also be used in pro-actives measures in keeping up with recent technologies and skills development of personnel even before a calamity or disaster)

l         Evacuated people from flood-risk areas during height of tropical cyclones and rains

l         Provided the public with the information, warnings and advisories prior to and during times when there were hazards and emergency incidents

l         Responded the calls for non-emergency medical assistance

l         Complemented others agencies` efforts in drainage systems clearing

l         Saved 61 persons from different crisis situations (1995 to present)

l         Assisted in the recovery of around 250 victims of fires, drowning, and landslides or structural collapse

l         Submitted request for Technical Grant on the conduct of Seismic Risk Assessment for Metro Manila – a joint undertaking by MMDA and PHIVOLCS



The evolution of the Philippines Disaster Management Strategy from a mere reaction to disasters to a more proactive role has provided the opportunity for the Metro Manila to improve the implementation of its Disaster Management Programs. However, there are still problems and issues that hamper efforts to efficiency and effectively carry out the tasks at hand. Among the common problems and issues encountered by the various organizations are the following:

l        Inadequacy of manpower or dedicated units to formulate and implement the programs on a more permanent and continuing basis

l        Lack of financial appropriations for operational plans despite the provision of existing law RA 8185 to allocate such fund, the 5% calamity fund that can be used only in times of disaster and can not be used in a pro-active measures.

l        Varied attitude (complacent) and perceptions (not important) of government officials and the public toward disaster prevention, mitigation, and preparedness.

l        Poor data base management of disaster information in Metro Manila which could aid in facilitating research, programs formulation, and  education of the public, disaster managers, and emergency response staff.



The disaster management programs in Metro Manila, despite the scarcity of recourses, should continue and work towards its enhancement The Formulation of more responsive disaster management programs should be given prime importance. Earthquakes, for one, would require an efficient and effective disaster mitigation strategy considering that their occurrence could not yet be predicted with absolute degree of accuracy.


The slow transcendence from relief-oriented to preparedness and mitigation-focused disaster management approach will require the development of a communication strategy that would strongly influence the thinking of administrators towards a paradigm shift. The change in the publicfs attitude of complacency to a safer prevention – conscious one should be other object of disaster managerfs efforts.



The first Meeting on Disaster Prevention involving Kobe, Shanghai, and Metro Manila participations provides an opportunity for sharing experiences and skills that would be very useful in improving the capacities of each in coping with disasters, particularly those caused by the seismic hazards. The technological advances and innovative methodologies employed by Kobe and Shanghai to cope with the most recent disasters experienced and the lessons learned from those experiences would surely be inspiring instruments for Metro Manila to develop further our existing disaster mitigation and response system.