The twin earthquakes that hit Batanes has underscored the urgency of passing a bill that will create the proposed Disaster Resiliency and Alertness Management Department (DREAM Department).
Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas has aired confidence that the House leadership will swiftly act on the measure, noting that the bill responds to the call of President Rodrigo Duterte in his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Vargas authored House Bill No. 2001 or the proposed creation of the DREAM Department, which will institutionalize the policies, structures, coordination mechanisms and programs for disaster preparedness and emergency management from the national down to the local levels.
“Nature keeps on reminding us of the necessity of DREAM department in order for us to have a sound sleep knowing we are prepared for any disaster,” Vargas said in a press conference Monday.
At least nine people were killed and dozens injured when magnitude 5.4 ad 5.9 struck within hours of each other on Saturday morning, according to bulletins issued by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvolcs).
“The people from the 5th District of Quezon City joined the nation in praying for the safety of our brothers in Batanes,” Rep. Vargas said.
Likewise, Vargas said, the recent earthquakes should be treated as a serious warning to the national government, local government units and the people especially those living along the fault line to be more vigilant for the possible Big One that might hit Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
“This succession of earthquakes is creating a scare and the talks about the Big One persists. Today, even if the affected communities struggle to bring their lives back to normal, as classes resume and the electricity is restored, anxiety and distress continue to creep inside their very souls, confidence still wrecked, and everything in their lives put on hold,” Vargas stressed.
The Big One refers to the feared magnitude 7.2 earthquake that experts believe could be generated by the movement of the West Valley fault.
Vargas’ proposes that the new department would absorb the powers and objectives of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, Office of Civil Defense and other related offices.
The DREAM department will be the lead coordinating body in preparing for, responding to and recovering from the effects of any man-made or natural disasters.
The proposed department will be in charge of recommending to the president the declaration of a state of calamity and its lifting based on a predetermined criteria.
The bill also contains penalties for prohibited acts such as dereliction of duties that lead to destruction, loss of lives, critical damage to facilities and misuse of funds; prevention of entry and distribution of relief goods in disaster-stricken areas and buying of for consumption or resale from disaster relief agencies of any relief goods, equipment and other commodities, among other illegal acts.
A prison term of six to twelve years and/or fine ranging from P100,000 to P500,000 shall be imposed to violators.
Read more: Death toll climbs to 9 in Batanes quakes