Senator Grace Poe said there is an urgency to pass the bill that would create the Department of Disaster Resilience and Emergency Management, saying the people’s safety needs cannot wait.
Poe’s Senate Bill 1735 that was filed in March 2018, seeks a new agency which will have the authority in the policy-making, planning, coordination, implementation and evaluation of programs relating to disaster risk reduction and management.
The legislator cited the need for enhanced coordination between the national government and local government units to effectively respond to the needs of communities before and after calamities, such as typhoons.
“The measure aims to strengthen the country’s disaster risk reduction and management system and institutions.”
The measure aims to strengthen the country’s disaster risk reduction and management system and institutions, particularly the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), which was created in 2010.
In the wake of Tropical Depression “Usman,” which hit the Bicol region and Samar provinces over the weekend, Poe said she received text messages from people trapped in their homes and seeking help.
“Parang kulang pa rin ang coordination ng national government at ng local government units, kasi wala naman talagang point person sa NDRRMC,” the lawmaker said.
The senator said: “Dapat may point person at saka kung sino ‘yung responsable; hindi ‘yung pasahan na ‘hindi, DSWD ‘yan, ay hindi DPWH ‘yan,’ may plano talaga dapat.”
“Sa tingin ko naman ngayon, matagal na ding napag-uusapan…maraming naging prayoridad na mga batas. Ang malungkot dito, parang naaalala lang natin ito tuwing nagkakaroon ng sakunang ganito,” she added.
The NDRRMC is technically under the Department of National Defense, which is also addressing many concerns, Poe said.
She also observed that the body is almost powerless because it is not headed by an official with a Cabinet rank.
“The NDRRMC is almost powerless because it is not headed by an official with a Cabinet rank.”
“Kailangang magkaroon ng kapangyarihan ang ganitong departamento,” Poe added.
Under SB 1735, the NDRRMC shall be transferred from the Department of National Defense to the proposed Department of Disaster Resilience and Emergency Management.
The proposed department shall serve as the secretariat and executive arm and convert the NDRRMC’s plan into “specific operational guidelines and programs.” It shall also have regional offices.
The proposed department shall also have bureaus on disaster resilience, disaster preparation and response, and knowledge management and dissemination.
The bill is currently being deliberated by the defense committee. She hopes the Senate will act fast to pass it.
The House of Representatives earlier approved its version of the bill on final reading.
Sessions will resume on Jan. 14, but Congress will go on break anew starting February.
Poe had filed the bill as early as 2013, saying that the government should not just sit and wait for disasters to happen given the frequency of extreme weather situations being experienced by the country.