Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte is pushing for the immediate passage of an ordinance that would institutionalize a contingency plan during emergencies to limit possible damages to property and minimize, if not eliminate threats to the lives and safety of innocent civilians.
Following the meeting on Friday afternoon of top city officials, and representatives of concerned government agencies and affected business establishments in response to the Wednesday shootout, Belmonte stressed the need to safeguard the welfare of the public during armed encounters, fires, earthquakes and other emergencies.
“We have been conducting fire and earthquake drills regularly, but the event on Wednesday night called for a more coordinated, detailed crisis management approach in dealing with other incidents causing public disturbance and threat to public safety,” Belmonte said.
In particular, Belmonte stressed the need for law enforcement agencies like the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to inform the city government of its operations and have an indemnification fund for innocent victims of such operations. These should be contained in the envisioned ordinance.
“Who will compensate the Grab drivers and employees trapped in the establishments? How about the damaged vehicles in the area? Economic losses and other damages brought about by operations such as what transpired last Wednesday should not be swept under the rug. While we understand the nature of such operations could lead to collateral damage, still we should not let unwitting businesses and civilians suffer in the end,” she remarked.
Belmonte added that part of the plan must include helping regain the confidence of the public in the area affected by an event, especially when it transpired in a commercial or populated area.
“The stigma and other effects of an event to the business and the community should be addressed,” she said.
Another aspect agreed upon in the meeting that can be included in the ordinance was the need to implement protocols for crowd safety and control during fires, earthquakes, armed encounters and other incidents. Regular simulation exercises to finetune these protocols should be conducted.
Also, the Incident Command System (ICS) shall be activated either through on-ground decisions by the concerned ground commanders of operating national or city departments, or by the established ICS of the city government which is tasked with closely monitoring all incidents.
Part of this is the immediate establishment of zoning protocols to determine Hot Zones, Warm Zones and Cold Zones. The hot and warm zones are nearest to the center of event and should be off limits to civilians and members of media. It will be managed by the agency on top of the prevailing emergency. The cold zone will be manned by the Department of Public Order and Safety and the QC Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRMMO), and this is the only area where media and bystanders are allowed.
The local government will also mobilize its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to house representatives from the operating departments to improve coordination and mobilization during events.
To avoid panic on the part of the citizens, the Public Information Office of the national or city department operating on the ground, or any other official authorized by the head of the operating department to release vital information shall be mandated to coordinate with the Public Affairs and Information Services Department (PAISD) of the city government through the EOC. This is meant in order for the city government to receive timely and correct information on the developing emergency.
Belmonte likewise said that the ordinance should also include a provision on allowing access to private roads owned by subdivisions and villages as an alternate route for trapped motorists.
“Many were trapped for hours and motorists can’t pass by private roads if they were not homeowners. During such emergencies, the local government should have temporary control over these roads so we can minimize traffic jams and ensure passage of motorists. Responding authorities were also delayed by the standstill,” Belmonte noted.