Warnings on disasters, emergencies should also be in Filipino, other dialects — solon

Published November 8, 2020, 6:02 PM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

Quezon City 5th District Rep. Alfred Vargas wants to require all government agencies and local government units to translate to Filipino and any other regional language or dialect all their announcements, issuances, and any other information relevant to disasters or national emergencies.

Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas
(Alfred Vargas official Facebook page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

The vice chairperson of the House Committee on Public Information said the country’s experience with the super typhoon Yolanda  on Nov. 8, 2013 highlighted the need for the public to be included in the nation’s plan and be properly informed on matters relating to disaster risk reduction and preparedness. 

“Indeed communication and information occupy a vital role in nation-building. In times of disaster and other emergencies, and to render meaningful and effective the rights of the people to information, it shall be ensured  that announcements, advisories, and similar public communications are accessible in terms of the language or dialect used,” Vargas said. 

He filed House Bill No. 7940 or the proposed “Plain Language During Disasters Act” to enhance people’s access to information during disasters by mandating government issuances to be written in plain language and translated to the local language or dialects if necessary. 

“At the heart of this legislation is the vision of good governance to make information available and accessible, particularly to make such public notices easily understandable by the general public,” Vargas said.

“The jargons used on scientific and technical terms on natural occurrences must be broken down to a more understandable medium and must be disseminated as extensively as possible through all available means in order for the government to better save lives,” he stressed. 

HB No. 7940 requires all government agencies and LGUs to translate to Filipino and any other appropriate regional language or dialect all announcements, advisories, press releases, issuances, and any other information relevant to a local or national disaster or emergency. 

The proposed Act covers disasters and other kinds of emergencies which are national in scope, as declared through a state of calamity or state of national emergency by the President, and provincial, city or municipal in scope, as declared through a state of calamity or emergency by the appropriate local government unit.

Vargas’ measure provides that plain language and translated information shall be used in the following: 

-Typhoon warnings, signals and other advisories by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA)

-Volcano, earthquake, tsunami, and landslide advisories and bulletins by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS)

-Announcements, bulletins and other advisories of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and the Local Disaster 
Risk Reduction and Management Councils  (LDRRMCs).

-Information on epidemics, outbreaks and public health emergencies of the Department of Health 

-Information on the Social Amelioration Program, emergency assistance and other social protection measures of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)

HB 7940 provides that the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) shall render the necessary technical assistance and expertise to the government agencies and LGUs and monitor their compliance to the duties mandated by the proposed Act.

The KWF, in consultation with the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), PAGASA, PHIVOLCS, NDRRMC and other relevant agencies and stakeholders, is tasked to issue the implementing rules and regulations of the proposed Act, within 60 days after its effectivity.