By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Grace Poe has asked her colleagues to pass the bill that would create the Department of Disaster Resilience and Emergency Management (DDREM).
Poe said it was “urgent” to approve the measure, noting the lack of coordination between the national government and local government units to “effectively respond” to the needs of communities before and after calamities, such as typhoons.
She particularly cited Tropical Depression Usman that hit the Bicol region and Samar provinces over the weekend. Poe said she had received messages from people seeking help.
“It seems that the national government and local government units still lack coordination,” she said in a radio interview.
“I think we have long been discussing this. We have prioritized several other bills. What’s sad is that we remember this only during disasters,” Poe added.
Poe blamed the supposed lack in coordination on the “absence” of a point person in the interagency NDRRMC.
She also observed that the body was “almost powerless because it was not headed by an official with a Cabinet rank.”
She said the Department of National Defense (DND), under which the NDRRMC is operating, was also addressing many other concerns.
Poe’s Senate Bill 1735, filed in March 2018, seeks the creation of the DDREM, which will have the authority in policy-making, planning, coordination, implementation and evaluation of programs related to disaster risk reduction and management.
It aims to strengthen the country’s disaster risk reduction and management system and institutions, particularly the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
Under SB 1735, the NDRRMC shall be transferred from the Department of National Defense to the proposed department which shall convert the NDRRMC’s plan into “specific operational guidelines and programs.”
The proposed department shall have bureaus on disaster resilience, disaster preparation and response, and knowledge management and dissemination. It shall also have regional offices.
The bill is currently being deliberated by the Senate defense committee. Senate President Vicente Sotto III had also filed a similar proposal.
The House of Representatives, on the other hand, had approved its version of the bill on final reading last October.
In his third State of the Nation Address, President Duterte asked Congress to pass the measure that would create the Department of Disaster Management, saying the “people’s safety requirements cannot wait.”
Congress sessions will resume on January 14, but will go on break anew in February.
Poe said she hopes the Senate “will act fast to pass it.”