Reelectionist Senator Sonny Angara said the country needs a strong and empowered institution capable of responding to the new normal of natural disasters and climate change, as he pushed for the immediate passage of a bill creating the Department of Disaster Resilience in the wake of a magnitude 6.1 earthquake that jolted parts of Luzon that killed at least eight people, injured scores, and damaged critical infrastructure.

“This strong earthquake reminds us of the urgency to create a single, independent and permanent agency devoted to disaster management and resilience,” Angara said. “This new department will oversee a comprehensive and coordinated strategy in managing natural disasters with the main goal of saving lives and minimizing damage to property.”

Last year, the seasoned legislator filed Senate Bill 1994 or the proposed Disaster Resilience Act which seeks to establish the Department of Disaster Resilience that will provide a “whole of government, whole of nation approach” to disasters and emergency situations.

“What we want to ensure is a seamless synergy among government agencies and stakeholders from national down to the grassroots levels to effectively respond to disasters. We need to keep every member of the family safe,” the veteran lawmaker said.

“We need to keep every member of the family safe.” 

The bill, along with other similar measures, is pending with the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security. Its counterpart in the House of Representatives was passed on third and final reading in October last year.

According to the senator, it is imperative for the Philippines to have a line agency focusing on disaster resilience given that the country is considered among the countries most vulnerable to natural hazards and climate change as it is geographically located along the Pacific Ring of Fire and the Tropical Cyclone Belt.

“It is imperative for the Philippines to have a line agency focusing on disaster resilience.” 

In 2016, the Philippines ranked third in the World Risk Index of most disaster-prone countries in the world. Every year, it experiences almost all forms of natural disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and landslides.

Under his bill, the proposed new department will be tasked to spearhead efforts to ensure disaster resilience by delivering on the highly critical and intertwined functions of disaster risk reduction, preparedness and response, as well as recovery and building forward better.

“The Department of Disaster Resilience shall be the principal government institution responsible for ensuring safe, adaptive and disaster-resilient community,” Angara said in his bill, which defines the powers and functions of the proposed agency.

“It shall lead, spearhead, initiate and integrate the crafting of plans, programs, projects and activities to reduce the risk of natural hazards and effects of climate change, and manage the impact of disasters,” he added.

Angara is also proposing to empower the head of the DDR to recommend the declaration of state of calamity, which allows the exercise of remedial measures such as price ceiling, grant of interest-free loans and tax exemptions.

He noted that each year, the Philippines sustains immense damage and tremendous losses due to natural disasters. These include loss of life or injury; damage to infrastructure, properties and equipment; interruption of food supply; disruptions to critical services; loss of livelihood, business or revenues from business interruption; disruption of economic development; and damage to the environment.

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