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House leader pushes creation of disaster resilience department

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By Ellson Quismorio 

It’s time the Philippines, a country that has endured calamitous natural disasters in the past, to have a Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR), according to a ranking official in the House of Representatives.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte
(FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)

Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur 2nd district LRay Villafuerte has filed House Bill (HB) 398 creating the Department of Disaster Resilience, defining its powers and functions, and appropriating funds for it.

The proposed measure envisions the DDR as the primary agency responsible for leading, organizing, and managing the national effort before, during and after disasters.

Villafuerte filed the bill in support of President Duterte’s call during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July for the speedy approval of a law creating such a department, which would also oversee national efforts on disaster prevention, relief work and climate resilience.

The department would also “provide leadership in the continuous development of strategic and systematic approaches to disaster prevention, preparedness, response, recovery and rehabilitation, anticipatory adaption strategies, measures, techniques and options.”

It seeks to integrate the Climate Change Commission (CCC), National Disaster Risk Reduction, People’s Survival Fund (PSF), Yolanda Recovery and Rehabilitation Efforts, and Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) under the DDR.

Also to be attached to the department are the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Administration (PAGASA) and Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

“The DDR will help ensure that the country is on top of all climate change developments with residents who are safe and ready before, during and after the occurrence of a natural disaster,” said the Deputy Speaker, who is also a member of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).

The international credit rating agency Moody’s has pointed out that not only is the Philippines situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire and within the Pacific Typhoon Belt, but its “historically large share of the country’s labor force is employed by the agriculture sector, which is inherently vulnerable to climate-related shocks,” Villafuerte noted.

“It is high time that the Philippines, through legislation, take a decisive step towards resiliency, stability and full readiness in the face of natural disasters. It cannot continue to resort to band-aid measures like creating temporary government agencies to deal with serious, persistent and pressing issues such as climate change and disaster management,” he stressed.

He said “true economic progress is unattainable when we continuously fail to deal with the reality of climate change and hence, suffer from its effects. With the creation of the DRR, the Philippines will be able to quickly respond, prepare, implement, monitor and evaluate disaster and climate resilience plans, programs and projects for the welfare of the people, particularly the vulnerable and the poor.”

The DDR will streamline the planning and execution of policies and projects on climate change and unify the country’s approach towards resiliency.

“The department shall also do away with redundant bureaucratic processes that may result in delays, confusion and diluted accountability,” Villafuerte said.

Under Villafuerte’s proposal, the applicable powers, functions, funds, and appropriations of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and the Climate Change Office (CCO), Geo-Hazard Assessment and Engineering Geology Section of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), Health and Emergency Management Bureau of the Department of Health (DOH), the Disaster Response Assistance and Management Bureau (DREAMB) of the DSWD, and the Bureau of Fire Protection will be transferred to the would-be DDR.

The disaster risk reduction and management functions, assets and personnel of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) currently under the DND (Department of National Defense), would also be transferred to the DDR, but the civil defense functions will remain with the DND.

The existing organizational and administrative systems and processes of the transferred OCD shall serve as the core organization of the Department.

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