President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent announcement about his plan to establish a separate department to address the need for effective preparedness and quick response to disasters with a Department of Disaster Resiliency as proposed by Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda in HB 8165 and which the House approved last September. It now awaits consolidation with its Senate version.
The President made the announcement in a recent briefing in Pili, Camarines Sur following the onslaught of Tropical Depression “Usman” that killed about 140 people —105 of them in Bicol—and displaced thousands in Bicol and the Visayas.
Usman packed winds of only 55 kilometers per hour but brought torrential rains that triggered flash floods and landslides. Several provinces were declared under a state of calamity.
During the briefing, Duterte said he plans to turn the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council into a “regular department” to address challenges during natural disasters and other emergencies. Salceda said HB 8165 will breathe life into Duterte’s concept of a strong disaster agency needed to meet the ever-increasing frequency of natural calamities that regularly hit the country.
Salceda said that while disasters, particularly typhoons, could not be prevented, their dire effects could be mitigated.
In the last three years, the President had continuously urged Congress to pass such a law. He said the proposed DDR will be “mandated to carry out a consistent and fortified calamity defense program to ensure the country’s sustainable development and inclusive growth through strategic and systematic approaches to disaster prevention and mitigation.”
Enacting the DDR law, Salceda added, also amounts to social justice since “poor people face more risks due to their unsafe locations and weak shelters, which could be effectively mitigated through proactive state action like preemptive evacuation and relocation.”
The tragic effects of Usman have emphasized the urgency of enacting the DDR law which could possibly happen within 2019 under the new Congress.
A noted economist and disaster resiliency advocate, Salceda noted that climate change has spawned more frequent and disastrous weather disturbances that necessitate well-coordinated planning and execution of strategies.
DDR will also integrate warning agencies with risk reduction and response structures and functions that will facilitate decisive contingency planning and warning communications.
Under the proposal, the Mines Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, particularly its GeoHazard Unit, will be transferred to the DDR “which should insulate it from mining interests and focus on the disaster resiliency aspects of its mandate,” he said.
HB 8165 mandates the DDR to oversee and coordinate the preparation, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of disaster and climate change resilience plans and programs, a shift in strategy from “deterministic to probabilistic approach to risk assessment” with a ‘whole –of-nation and whole of government’ approach, he added.
The proposal also seeks to establish the National Disaster Resilience Council (NDRC) which shall serve as the department’s policy advisory body on disaster risk and vulnerability reduction, emergency management, and climate change adaptation.
It likewise seeks the creation of the Prevention, Mitigation, and Preparedness Fund to support programs for climate change adaptation; disaster risk reduction, mitigation, and risk transfer; and disaster preparedness for poor and vulnerable communities.