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Lawmaker revives bill on new disaster agency

LEYTE Rep. Yedda Marie K. Romualdez has revived a proposal in Congress to create a Department of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management which shall have its own budget and technical expertise to handle disaster response situations.

In filing House Bill 344, Romualdez, wife of former House Independent Bloc leader and ex-Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, stressed the need to enact a measure that advocates disaster preparedness and effective emergency response protocols to ably help victims of disasters and calamities.

“The Philippines is one of the countries that is often visited by strong typhoons. Around 19 tropical storms enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility in a typical year and, of these, usually 6 or 9 make landfall,” Romualdez  said in the bill’s explanatory note.

She said that the story of devastation brought by super typhoon “Yolanda” (international code name Haiyan) and the story of recovery and rebuildung in the aftermath of the typhoon should move leaders of Congress to create an appropriate agency.

“Notwithstanding all the disaster preparation and coordination plans, there were still significant losses of life, injury, and damage to property when Typhoon Yolanda, considered as the world’s strongest typhoon ever recorded, hit the Philippine Territory,” she said.

“Despite the government’s efforts and preparations, thousands of people perished. Damage to business, property and agriculture were in such magnitude that economic activities were placed at a standstill,” Romualdez added.

She also said the threat of climate change—a global phenomenon—warrants the creation of the new department dedicated to disaster-response operations.

“Due to climate change, typhoons get stronger. We do not know when the next one will strike,” she stressed, adding that the country should also brace for experts warning of the “Big One” earthquake to rock Metro Manila.

If passed into law, Romualdez said the new department will drastically reduce, if not totally eliminate, the bureaucratic red tape which has caused many delays in the delivery of immediate and much-needed assistance by the victims.

Under her bill, the new department shall institutionalize policies, structures, coordination mechanisms, and programs with continuing budget appropriation on disaster preparedness and emergency management from national down to local levels.

The bill also provides that the department shall be an independent agency of the national government and shall maintain its principal office in Metro Manila and have regional offices nationwide for the implementation of its operations.

Among its functions would be to advise the government and other stakeholders on matters relating to disaster preparedness and emergency management, formulate standard operating procedures for the deployment of rapid assessment teams, information sharing among different government agencies and coordination before and after disasters at all levels, among others.

Romualdez’s proposal revives the measure filed by her husband who proposed a measure patterned after the United States’ Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which operates 24/7, solely focused on monitoring weather disturbances and other calamities.

“In a country threatened on a regular basis by natural calamities like typhoons and earthquakes, we need a populace that knows what to do when disaster strikes,” the former congressman said.

“The painful lessons of Yolanda should prompt us to take steps to ensure that our people are equipped with knowledge that can help them be better prepared for disasters of this magnitude. Education is the necessary first step; a dedicated Department of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management is the next,” he added.

Topics: Rep. Yedda Marie K. Romualdez , Congress , Creation Department of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management , House Bill 344
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