Ensuring Safe Project Implementation in the New Normal
“The Safety and Environment Standards (SES) Unit has a very crucial role in project implementation with the ‘new normal’, especially through the NPCO issuance of supplemental guidelines on Community, Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) based on harmonized various international and national issuances (DOH, DPWH, DOLE and DTI).”
This was the statement made by PRDP Deputy Project Director Shandy Hubilla during the SES Coordination Meeting and Workshop last August 4-6, 2020. With project implementation picking up pace in the midst of a global health crisis, the SES Unit faces the challenge of making sure that all prevention and control measures are set for the safety of all project stakeholders from the LGU’s, contractors, residents, and PRDP personnel.
Chief among the key issues and concerns arising from the recently concluded 10th World Bank Implementation Support Mission were the challenges to mobility and movement of PRDP staff while conducting SES activities due to local travel restrictions and the safeguarding of PRPD staff against health risks in general.
In Mindanao where the status of community quarantines varies not only between regions but also between different LGU’s in the same region, the maximized use of internet and GPS based innovations has proven effective in bridging the gap brought about by travel restrictions. While site-inspection and other SES related activities have already resumed in some municipalities classified as “low-risk” for COVID-19, reliance on remote monitoring and alternative methodologies take the place of actual visits where travel is restricted. In cases where physical gathering is prohibited, social media platforms serve an important role in conveying necessary information regarding COVID-19 protocols and guidelines for construction, and management and mitigation measures in addition to existing construction safety practices.
In his presentation for the Mindanao cluster, SES Unit Head of PSO Mindanao Arnel Arreglado, introduced KOBOTOOLBOX, an app which can be used to digitize SES monitoring checklist and GRM uptake forms. According to Arreglado, the use of digital tools such as this, enables the Project Support Offices in all clusters direct access to issues and concerns in subproject implementation to act on them appropriately.
Because consultation is integral to the tasks of the SES Unit and remains a vital process in subproject implementation, extra measures are needed to prioritize the safety of partner communities and staff. Following the protocols and standards set by the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases through Resolution No. 38, PRDP released a memo which provided guidelines for the safe conduct of these consultations. This would ensure that there would be continuous meaningful engagements among farmer/fisherfolk beneficiaries, project-affected-persons, proponent groups, and disadvantaged/vulnerable individuals regarding the disclosure of their rights as well as the incorporation of their concerns and feedback in all stages of subproject implementation.
Blended consultation mechanisms through the use of online platforms, provision of Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials, house-to-house consultations or dialogues, and community assemblies are ways by which PRDP can continue to maintain meaningful consultations with subproject stakeholders even during a global health crisis. (Joseph John Palarca | PSO Mindanao)