By Mario Casayuran
To ensure immediate disaster response to calamity-stricken areas, Senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid has filed a bill providing free freight services in transporting relief goods and in-kind donations to areas that are under a state of calamity.
Through Senate Bill 1151, the “Free Relief Goods Transportation Act,” Lapid wants to institutionalize a system that would facilitate duly recognized relief organizations in providing “speedy, reliable, and unhampered delivery of relief goods” to areas that are hit by disasters through free transportation of humanitarian aid.
“There are still existing gaps in our government responses and approaches to disaster reduction and risk management including the logistical difficulties in mobilizing relief packages and material aid,’’ he pointed out.
Lapid said the archipelagic nature of the country makes it even more difficult to transport relief and emergency items and would normally entail huge freight costs, which are usually shouldered by relief organizations and aid agencies that could have been allotted to acquire more food and non-food items for distribution to disaster victims.
Under the bill, the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD), in coordination with the Philippine Postal Corporation (PPC) and all freight companies, common carriers, private carriers, freight forwarders, and other companies providing logistic services in the Philippines are mandated to grant free freight services to duly registered relief organizations in the transportation of emergency relief goods and donated articles to areas declared to be in a state of calamity by the President or the local government unit (LGU) concerned.
These common carriers, freight forwarders, and other similar entities are also required to deliver goods and services for free specifically to areas where they operate, the bill stated.
Lapid emphasized that disaster adaptation and mitigation mechanisms should be in place in order to ensure swift emergency response and provide the basic needs of the victims and survivors of calamities.