THE Presidential Management Staff (PMS) bought 500 “Go Bags” in 2019 to provide its personnel with an easy-to-grab emergency kit in the event of a major disaster.
But by the time each bag was put together, the combined weight of all the food packs, hygiene supplies, and survival tools in it already reached 16 pounds – too heavy and bulky to do anybody any good in a real crisis.
This was tested during the 5.3 magnitude earthquake that rocked Luzon on September 13, 2019 and the result was far from ideal.
“During the earthquake in September 2019, only one person was able to bring with him his emergency go bag from among the personnel in the office at that time,” government auditors noted, tagging the transaction as an unreasonable expense.
The PMS, an agency under the Office of the President, was told by the Commission on Audit (COA) to reevaluate its list of emergency must-haves to make the Go Bags serve the purpose they were intended for.
Inspected by auditors, the bloated PMS bags were found to hold six foil packs of tuna chunks, six packs of pork and beans, three high energy bars, three cup noodles, and one-liter bottle of drinking water to make sure no PMS official or employee go hungry or thirsty for 72 hours.
In case a calamity leaves an employee trapped and isolated, the PMS also tried to make sure the person will end the ordeal smelling good.
It included one bath soap, six sachets of shampoo, six sachets of conditioner, four sachets of toothpaste, a toothbrush, one roll of toilet paper, one pack of sanitary napkin and three sachets of detergent powder. It also included one bottle of rubbing alcohol and a pack of alcohol wipes for good measure. Also inside the bag were several packets of medicine for hypertension, pain relief, diarrhea, allergies, and infections together with bandages, face masks, gloves, a box of matches, lighter, cotton balls and a waterproof envelope.
No PMS employee will be sleeping on a bare floor in an emergency as the bags also contained a synthetic 54” x 80” sleeping mat and a thermal blanket.
For entertainment and information, there is a rechargeable radio and lamp.
To top it all off, the PMS also inserted a 10-meter extra strong Kernmantle rope.
Despite the long list, auditors found something missing – a list of emergency hotlines of government disaster response agencies and non-government organizations like the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, and the Philippine Red Cross.
“The total weight of the Go Bag of the PMS, including its contents is 16 pounds or 7.5 kilograms, hence to carry it when disaster strikes would pose a challenge to employees,” the COA said.
The PMS management claimed it made allowances for the heft and bulk as each Go Bag also came with an optional metal trolley with rollers and telescopic handles which, when combined, tipped the scale at five pounds.
However, it agreed with the COA recommendation to find ways to reduce the weight and to include a list of emergency hotlines.