House Speaker Alan Peter Cayeyano on Wednesday pushed for the passage of the proposed Department of Disaster Resilience which he said is crucial to respond to natural disasters amid COVID-19.
“While our government is now focused on its fight against COVID-19 pandemic, we also have to be prepared to respond to inevitable natural disasters like floods, typhoons, and earthquakes,” Cayetano said.
The Speaker’s issued the call after President Rodrigo Duterte, in his fifth State of the Nation Address, urged the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass the DRR bill soonest, pointing out the impact of natural disasters as “poverty creators.”
Cayetano said there is a need to manage the “dual disaster” of natural disasters and poverty in an integrated, systematic, and cohesive manner.
“As much as we wish for the opposite, this pandemic could not be the last calamity that our country will face, so we need to fasttrack the passage of the Department of Disaster Resilience,” he said.
Since 2013, Cayetano has been advocating the creation of a focused, single-minded, and specialized department that would bolster government’s programs on disaster response, resilience, and management.
House Bill 5989 or the Disaster Resilience Act proposes to create the Department of Disaster Resilience which will solely focus on disaster preparedness, prevention, mitigation, response, recovery, and rehabilitation.
Cayetano, the principal author of the bill, reiterated his challenge to his colleagues to come up with long-lasting solutions, programs, and mechanisms to address calamities.
He particularly cited the need to speed up rehabilitative efforts after every disaster.
“Basically what we in Congress want to achieve in disaster response is for government to be proactive and not reactionary,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano said the DDR will act as the focal agency that will bring relevant agencies, local government units, and non-government units together in crafting a national contingency plan.
“We have to build back better. Whatever it is that we are going to construct or reconstruct, we must ensure it would be more adaptive to the dynamic needs of the people and are structurally stronger and more strategic,” he said.
The bill is currently pending in the House plenary for deliberations.
Under the proposed Disaster Resilience Act, all localities must have a permanent evacuation center that must conform with the standards under the United Nations Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response.
The DDR will be the principal government institution responsible for ensuring safe, adaptive, and disaster resilient communities. It is mandated to provide a clear and comprehensive direction in the implementation of plans, programs, and projects to reduce the risk of natural hazards and the effects of climate change and manage the impact of disasters.
The bill provides that the Department will cover all natural hazards, which include the following: a) Geological Phenomena and related hazards such as earthquake, volcanic activity, and mass movement b) Hydrological, Oceanographic and Meteorological Phenomena and Related Hazards c) Climate Variability/Change with related hazards such as El Nino/El Nina and extreme rainfall and temperature.