A pro-administration legislator on Tuesday pushed for the enactment of the measure creating a Cabinet-level department that will deal with the year-round onslaught of natural disasters which have been worse by climate change.
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte was referring to the bill creating a Department of Disaster Resilience that was principally authored by Leyte Rep. Yedda Marie K. Romualdez.
The consolidated House Bill 8165 is now in the period of sponsorship and debate in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, several bills are pending seeking to create a similar department.
Villafuerte said creating a Cabinet-level department would enable the government to institutionalize disaster preparation, risk reduction and relief and rehabilitation efforts, rather than tackling these on an adhoc basis, which has now become untenable with climate change.
“In relation to this, I am supporting the President’s directive to build permanent evacuation centers to replace the usual practice of converting public schools as temporary shelters for calamity victims. This should be the first order of business for the would-be department,” Villafuerte, vice chairman of the House committee on appropriations, and local government, said.
Villafuerte said with permanent evacuation centers, “the government can better achieve its zero-casualty goals as the would-be department could go full-blast on preemptive evacuation, especially of people in coastal and mountainous villages.”
Typhoon Ompong, the strongest typhoon to strike the country so far this year, has killed at least 65 people, triggered landslides and power outages, and caused over P14.2 billion-worth of agricultural damage in over 500,000 hectares of cropland. As of last weekend, over 133,000 people were still in evacuation centers and another 100 people were believed buried in a mining shelter in Benguet.
A co-author of this measure, Villafuerte has proposed the consolidation of five government agencies concerned with disaster risk reduction efforts under one roof to oversee all programs and activities to reduce the country’s vulnerability to natural calamities and climate change.
These five state agencies are the Climate Change Commission (CCC), National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, People’s Survival Fund (PSF), Yolanda Recovery and Rehabilitation Efforts, and the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR).
Under HB 6131, Villafuerte has proposed a single specialized government agency that would function not only after the occurrence of disaster, but would work all-year-round to build the country’s capacity and management of climate change; strengthen the planning, execution and financing framework for climate change; enhance leadership and accountability through monitoring, evaluation and review of climate change policies and activities; and ensure effective mechanisms even before disaster strikes.
Villafuerte noted that climate change is now considered a national security risk because it endangers public safety and threatens the sustainability of the country’s food supply and economic stability.
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