By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Citing the need to mitigate the impact of the El Niño phenomenon, lawmakers are counting on the Senate to urgently approve the bill that will create the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) when Congress buckles down to work in May.
Leyte Rep. Yedda Marie Kittilstvedt-Romualdez and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte appealed anew to the Upper Chamber to prioritize the approval of the DDR bill.
Romualdez, first nominee of Tingog Sinirangan party-list and chairman of the House Committee on Accounts, expressed hope that the DDR bill would be approved before 17th Congress ends in June.
“I believe we still have time to work on the approval of the proposed Department of Disaster Resilience. I am appealing again to our good senators to consider fast tracking the passage of the DDR bill as this would help drastically reduce, if not totally eliminate, the
bureaucratic red tape that has caused many delays in the delivery of immediate assistance needed by disaster and calamity victims,” she said.
The House of Representatives approved the bill on third and final reading last year.
For his part, Villafuerte asked the Senate to expeditiously “act with a similar sense of urgency in approving its version that will better equip government to deal with year-round natural calamities made worse by climate change.”
“The government can better achieve its zero-casualty goals as the would-be department could go full-blast on preemptive evacuation, especially of people in coastal and mountainous villages,” he said.
The DDR is expected to serve as “the primary government agency responsible for leading, organizing and managing the national effort to reduce disaster risk, prepare for, and respond to disasters, recover and rehabilitate, and build forward better after the occurrence of disasters.”
It is set to augment the capacity of local government units (LGUs) in collaboration with relevant national agencies and other stakeholders in implementing disaster risk reduction and management and climate change action plans, programs, projects and activities.
Romualdez earlier called on concerned government agencies to put in place contingency measures that would mitigate the impact and damages of the El Niño to the agriculture and power sectors.
She said the welfare of the distressed farmers should be prioritized by the government by granting them financial relief such as loans.
She also called on concerned government officials to identify if cloud seeding operations should be done in areas affected by El Niño.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau on Soil and Water Management (BSWM) are undertaking the cloud seeding operations.
Romualdez had sought concerted and united efforts in national and local level to mitigate the impact of El Niño and damages to the agriculture sector.
In the previous years, prolonged dry spell had damaged billions of pesos worth of crops.