By Genalyn Kabiling
Malacañang is urging Congress to pass a bill creating a full-time and focused department to deliver enhanced disaster resilience and quick disaster response.
The administration version of the bill on the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) has been submitted to the two houses of Congress last Monday, according to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque.
The draft bill, transmitted by the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) to the Offices of the Senate President and the House Speaker, was recently approved by President Duterte and the Cabinet for immediate endorsement to Congress as “a high priority measure.”
“The bill is anchored on the government’s experience with previous disasters, among them super-typhoon Yolanda, and guided by President Duterte’s leadership principles,” Roque said during a Palace press briefing.
Roque said the proposed department would have a full-time focus on natural hazards and disasters and must deliver in key result areas such as disaster risk reduction, disaster preparedness and response, and recovery and building forward better.
“The bill is a product of inter-agency teamwork, building on the salient points of the pending bills in Congress,” he said.
“Once passed into law, the creation of the department will be a significant step toward attaining safe, adaptive, and disaster-resilient communities by leading efforts to reduce the risk of natural hazards and the effects of climate change,” he added.
The proposed DDR was one of the priority bills mentioned by President Duterte in his July 23 State of the Nation Address.
At present, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council is assigned to coordinate, monitor and implement government action to protect people during disasters or emergencies.
The disaster risk reduction responsibility however is shared among government agencies “in such a way that nobody is in charge of the overall disaster resilience on a full-time, focused basis,” the administration bill’s explanatory note read.
It also stressed that the country’s recent experiences with disasters such as the super-typhoon Yolanda in 2013, the Bohol earthquake in 2013, and the super-typhoon Pablo in 2012, showed the existing disaster management system lacked responsiveness to disaster resilience.
To strengthen the chain of command and establish a unified command system for disaster management, the proposed DDR would be led by a Secretary assisted by four Undersecretaries.
The bill also proposed the department to be given a “take-over capacity” under extreme conditions in severely affected areas. “The Department shall have the power to temporarily take-over or direct any private utility to avert disasters and/or save lives,” the bill read.
The measure also proposed to institutionalize innovative, responsive and streamlined procurement rules and mechanisms to ensure speedy purchase of goods and services during critical situations.
A National Disaster Operations Center and its corresponding Alternative Command and Control Centers will also be created to monitor, assess, manage and respond to disasters in all areas of the country.
A Disaster Resilience Research and Training Institute will also be established to provide training and sharing of knowledge to improve disaster resilience.