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Post-Taal, Poe pushes for creation of new department for disaster management

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By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Grace Poe has stressed anew the need for a single disaster management department following the eruption of Taal Volcano last Sunday.

Senator Grace Poe (FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senator Grace Poe
(FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)

In an interview over radio DZMM Tuesday, Poe said the recent eruption of Taal Volcano emphasizes the need for the creation of a permanent government agency to focus on calamities and disasters.

Thousands of residents of Batangas province and nearby areas were displaced by the ash spewed by Taal Volcano, which, according to authorities, is showing signs of hazardous eruption at Alert Level 4.

“Dahil nga marami na ring nangyayaring mga kalamidad sa ating bansa, ay napapanahon na na magkaroon ng isang departamento na tututok sa tatlong bagay: ang pag-iwas sa pagkakaroon ng trahedya, lalung-lalo na kapag may kalamidad; ang pagbibigay ng tamang responde pagka nagkaroon ng kalamidad; at ang pangatlo, na madalas ay nakakaligtaaan, ang rehabilitasyon pagkatapos ng isang kalamidad,” Poe said.

(Because our country has experienced and been experiencing calamities, I think it is time that we have a single department that will focus on three things: the prevention of tragedies, especially in times of calamity; the provision of proper response during calamities; and the third, which is often overlooked, the rehabilitation of communities after calamities.)

Poe filed Senate Bill No. 124, which seeks the establishment of a Department of Disaster Resilience and Emergency Assistance and Management. Nine similar bills were also filed in the Upper Chamber.

While the inter-agency National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has been performing its mandate, Poe noted the lack of an authority to be primarily be responsible and accountable for disaster response and management.

“Kasi sa ngayon turuan po eh. Oo, nandyan ‘yung namumuno ng NDRRMC na si Executive Director Ricardo Jalad, hindi naman talaga siya namumuno ng lahat ng departamento na mayroong kinalaman diyan. Kasi sa ilalim po niyan, nandiyan din po ang DSWD, nandiyan ang DOH, nandiyan ang DPWH, parang coordinating council lang ang NDRRMC at wala naman talaga silang kapangyarihan. So, pag merong ganito, sino ang atin talagang titingalain, sino ang magiging responsable dito?” she said.

(Because they are currently pointing fingers. While, yes, the NDRRMC is being led by its Executive Director Ricardo Jalad, he is really not in charge of the other departments involved there. Because there’s also the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Health, the Department of Public Works and Highways, and the NDRRMC only serves as their coordinating council and really has no powers. So in times of calamity, who will we look up to, who will we hold responsible?)

“Dapat may isang kalihim na magiging responsable (There should be a Cabinet secretary who will be responsible for this).”

Under her SB 124, the proposed department for disaster management shall have a Bureau of Disaster Resiliency, which will focus on mitigation, prevention, and post-disaster rehabilitation; Bureau of Disaster Preparation and Response, which will handle the operations immediately before, during, and immediately after a disaster; and the Bureau of Knowledge Management and Dissemination, which will build up and disseminate technical knowledge on disaster risk reduction management.

The NDRRMC will still be part of the proposed department and shall retain its policy-making and coordinating functions under Republic Act No. 10121, or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.

The department proper, on the other hand, shall serve as the secretariat and executive arm to provide leadership with accountability, Poe said.

The proposed department shall also have local offices in every region, she added.

Poe called on the Senate committee on national defense and security to fast-track the approval of the measure. The committee, led by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, started in November last year its deliberation on the proposals for the creation of a disaster department.

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