By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Francis Tolentino has allayed the concerns of government officials on the proposed creation of a single agency to handle disaster preparedness and response.
Officials in the executive branch expressed reservations on Monday about the bills filed in Senate seeking to create a Department of Disaster Resilience consolidating all of the government’s disaster management programs, including recovery and rehabilitation efforts.
During a hearing led by the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, Defense undersecretary and Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Administrator Ricardo Jalad said it could be very overwhelming for a single department to perform such a “big function.”
He explained that the proposed department would still need the expertise of other government agencies to plan and implement interventions before and after disasters, such as on agriculture, engineering and public works.
Tolentino, however, pointed out that the agency to be created will absorb several agencies with competence on their respective functions.
“Nakalimutan siguro na ‘yong Bureau of Fire Protection ‘yan din ang nag i-inspect ng mga gusali, lalo sa mga electrical, sa mga fire hazard ng mga gusali,” Tolentino said in an interview as an example to respond to Jalad’s concern.
He also believed that the new department will not go against efforts to right size the national government as personnel of the concerned agencies will also be taken in.
“Mukhang hindi po talaga mangangailangan ng mas maraming tao dahil sabi ko nga meron tayong mahigit na 23,000 na Bureau of Fire Protection personnel, pag nilipat yun automatic meron na kagad silang 23,000 na personnel (I think it won’t require additional men because like I said, we have 23,000 BFP personnel, if we transfer them then they will automatically have 23,000 personnel),” he said.
Aside from the BFP, the agencies to be absorbed by the proposed disaster department are the OCD, the Climate Change Office of the Climate Change Commission, the Geo-Hazard Assessment and Engineering Geology Section of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the Health Emergency Management Bureau of the Department of Health, the Disaster Response and Assistance and Management Bureau of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Bureau of Fire Protection, and the Program Management Office for Earthquake Resiliency of the Greater Metro Manila Area.
Tolentino said the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) will be included in the proposed department.
The senator insisted on the need to create the Department of Disaster Resilience as he believed that the OCD and the current National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council are not doing enough to mitigate disasters.