By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Richard Gordon on Sunday expressed his belief there would be no need to craft a law that will help victims of natural disasters and calamities as long as government funds appropriated for these are readily available and properly used.
Gordon, who chairs the Philippine Red Cross, said this as he nixed the idea of passing into law the proposal creating a separate department of disaster management, which some lawmakers are now pushing following the eruption of Taal Volcano.
“Hindi naman lahat ng disaster, kailangan ng batas. Ang kailangan lang maayos yung paggastos ng pera ng gobyerno, (Not all disaster needs a law. What we need is the proper utilization of government funds),” Gordon said in an interview over GMANews TV.
Gordon pointed out that local government units (LGU) were equipped with calamity funds they can use for emergency response.
“Sinasabi kelangan ng disaster kwan eh, (another) bureaucracy na naman iyan. Pag-aralan muna ng mabuti iyan, (Creating a separate department means another bureaucracy. That should be studied carefully first),” Gordon said.
What the government should do instead is to create a program that will manage all the disaster relief efforts.
Gordon said he was open to the creation of a commission similar to what was created following the Mt. Pinatubo eruption—the Mt. Pinatubo Commission—“but local governments can do that.”
“Sapat naman (relief efforts), ang daming tumutulong na tao sa pagkain at sa lahat. Pero sa tingin ko, dapat may programa (relief efforts are sufficient, there were many who contributed food and other essentials. But I think, there must be a specific program),” the senator said.
However, in a separate interview with GMANews TV, Sen. Francis Tolentino insisted there should be a single department that should oversee all matters related to disaster relief efforts.
He added that, as it is, there was no single agency that people can trust in case of a national emergency.
Tolentino noted that the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) is only activated in times of a national crisis.
What the country needs now, he said, is an agency that will actively and continually respond to natural disaster and calamities in a daily basis.
“Yan nga ang sinasabi ko na dapat magkaroon nang department of disaster management para isa lang ang kausap dito, (That’s why I am pushing for a department of disaster management so only one agency can be tapped for this),” Tolentino said.
“Last Monday, I had to convene an inter-agency committee para pag usapan mabilisang kilos. Pag merong department of disaster management, sila nay un (to discuss how we can act fast. If we have a department of disaster management, they will be in charge of that),” he said.
He said there’s no need to come up with another set of fund as Congress can consolidate the budget of the NDRRMC, and other government agencies that would be under the new department.
“Ko-consolidate mo lang. May regional directors din naman ngayon ang NDRRMC yun na rin ang gagamitin mo (You will just consolidate. There are NDRRMC regional directors that you can use),” he said.
“Sa bill na finile ko, pati BFP (Bureau of Fire Protection) under na ng bagong departamento. Madami na tao sa field (In the bill that I filed, even the BFP would be part of the new department. That means we will have more people in the field),” he pointed out.