A new department or a more powerful agency attached under the Office of the President that responds swiftly to disasters and calamities will be a long time coming.
The Philippines needs such an agency – it is the world’s second nation most vulnerable to climate change and disasters.
The country’s geography – an archipelago where over 7,000 islands are spread from Batanes in the north to Tawi Tawi in the south – makes disaster response a huge challenge.
The logistical requirements in dealing with the aftermath of disasters and calamities and in responding to the needs of affected communities are enormous.
Wednesday’s magnitude 7 earthquake that struck Abra province and nearby regions in the north is a reminder of the country’s vulnerability to natural calamities. Several roads hit by landslides caused by the temblor have become impassable, making relief efforts difficult.
Lawmakers in the Lower House led by Speaker Rep. Martin Romualdez early this month filed a bill seeking the creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience to better manage the country’s disaster risk reduction and response efforts.
House Bill 13 notes that 74 percent of Filipinos and 80 percent of the country’s land area are exposed to the risk of natural calamities.
“It is high time that we create a truly empowered department that will focus on natural hazards and disasters, characterized by unity of command, a science and ICT-based approach and the capacity to take charge of three key result areas: disaster risk reduction; preparedness and response; and recovery, rehabilitation and building forward better,” says the bill.
The proposed department or a more professional agency under the direct supervision of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. may be a more effective body.
It can implement an integrated and a comprehensive disaster risk reduction, preparedness and response management program to neutralize the ravages wreaked by nature.
The Abra earthquake and the destruction of super typhoon Yolanda in Eastern Visayas in November 2013 are clear signs that the freak of nature is commonplace in this part of the world.
We should always be prepared against natural disasters to limit their damage and save Filipino lives.