By Philippine News Agency
The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on second reading a measure creating the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR), a legislative priority of the Duterte administration.
The lower chamber passed via voice vote House Bill 8165 titled the “Department of Disaster Resilience Act.”
Under the bill, the DDR will be the national government agency primarily responsible for disaster preparedness, prevention, mitigation, response, recovery, and rehabilitation.
“The Department shall be the primary government agency responsible for leading, organizing and managing the national effort to reduce disaster risk, prepare for, and respond to disasters, recover and rehabilitate, and build forward better after the occurrence of disasters,” the bill read.
The bill also seeks to create a National Disaster Resilience Council (NDRC), which shall serve as the policy advisory body to the Department on disaster risk reduction and management and climate change adaptation.
Leyte Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez, a principal author of the bill, said its passage could prevent a repeat of the tragedy in Leyte in 2013 as a result of the ill-preparedness in dealing with super typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan).
Romualdez said it is high time to create a Department of Disaster Resilience that will effectively reduce the country’s vulnerability to natural hazards and bolster the country’s resilience to the impact of national disasters and climate change.
“With the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience, we can look forward to the future with hope, knowing that the government is ready, better equipped and committed to exert its best effort to reduce the risks that come with natural disasters, to empower local communities to rise above the different vulnerabilities that surround them and to ensure that in the years to come, such a tragedy will never happen again,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez described Yolanda as an “unspeakable tragedy that we do not want to happen again.”
“Until now, five years after Haiyan had passed, the pain caused by the strongest typhoon in recent history remains fresh in the hearts and minds of our constituents. Haiyan not only took our properties, our livelihood and local businesses, but also the lives of our brothers and sisters, our mothers, fathers, grandparents, and even our friends,” Romualdez said.
“We all lost something on that day. Some lost someone they loved,” she added.
Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo, sponsor of the measure, stressed the need to create an “able, fully equipped and responsive department” that will prepare and lead the nation to cope with both rapid- and slow-onset catastrophic events.
“The bill at hand is a concrete step towards transforming what was once an ad hoc, coordinative, and reactive response to disaster risk management, to one that anchors climate and disaster resilience to the very foundations of sustainable development,” Romualdo said.
“The bill creates a Cabinet-level agency that builds a culture of resilience, organizes and strengthens the nation to face catastrophic events, and reduces the complexity of responding to the threats of current and future climate and disaster risks,” Romualdo added.
Romualdo said the bill highlights the “whole-of-government, whole-of-nation, and whole-of-society approach” to disaster resiliency efforts through convergence of efforts by the government and stakeholders.
“The holistic approach to disasters ought not to be the sole responsibility of government. It needs a multi-stakeholder approach and strong partnership so we can achieve a disaster-resilient culture,” Romualdo said.
The proposed department shall ensure seamless synergy and coordination with stakeholders – including civil society organizations (CSOs), academe, and the private sector – in relation to disaster resilience programs and projects and the development and promotion of research, education, and training mechanisms with relevant stakeholders.
A multi-stakeholders convergence unit shall also be established to align the disaster resilience efforts of the private sector, CSOs, academe, and other stakeholders with the department, by assisting, coordinating or providing services that strengthen public-private cooperation and coordination in disaster resilience.
The bill also seeks the establishment of a Climate and Disaster Research, Education and Training Institute, which shall serve as a world-class center of excellence for learning and research in the field of disaster risk and vulnerability reduction and management and climate change adaptation.