SOLON BATS FOR PASSAGE OF NEW DISASTER BODY AMID CALAMITIES
MANILA -- Senator Grace Poe said there is an urgent need to pass the bill that would create the Department of Disaster Resilience and Emergency Management, saying the people's safety and needs cannot wait.
Poe's Senate Bill 1735 that was filed in March 2018 seeks a new agency, which will have authority on policy-making, planning, coordination, implementation and evaluation of programs relating to disaster risk reduction and management.
The senator 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, 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 (It seems that there is still lacking coordination between the national government and local government units because there is no really a point person in the NDRRMC)," she said in a radio interview.
"Dapat may point person at saka kung sino 'yung responsable; hindi 'yung pasahan na 'hindi, DSWD [Department of Social Welfare and Development] 'yan, ay hindi DPWH [Department of Public Works and Highways] 'yan,' may plano talaga dapat (There should be a point person and who should be responsible; and not just passing the buck. There should really be a plan)," she added.
"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 (I think now that we discussed this, there have been many priority bills. Sadly, we just seem to remember when there is a disaster like this)," Poe said.
The NDRRMC is technically under the Department of National Defense (DND), which is also addressing many concerns, she said.
Poe also observed that the body is almost powerless because it is not headed by an official with a Cabinet rank.
"Kailangang magkaroon ng kapangyarihan ang ganitong departamento (There is a need to give powers to this department)," Poe added.
Under SB 1735, the NDRRMC shall be transferred from the DND 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. Poe hopes the Senate will quickly act to pass it.
The House of Representatives earlier approved its version of the bill on final reading.
Sessions will resume on January 14, but Congress will go on break anew starting February.
Poe filed the bill as early as 2013, saying the government should not just sit and wait for disasters to happen, given the frequency of extreme weather situations being experienced by the country. (PR)
Photo by Robert Balidoy/Reuters/ABS-CBN