MANILA - Malacañang has submitted to Congress the Executive branch’s version of the bill creating the Department of Disaster Resilience, as President Rodrigo Duterte seeks to have a point person in the country’s disaster management efforts.
The Presidential Legislative Liaison Office on July 30 submitted the copy of the bill to both chambers of Congress, which seeks the establishment of a “strong and empowered department that would focus on natural hazards.”
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the bill is envisioned to have a sole focus on natural hazards and disasters.
“The bill is a product of interagency work, building on the salient points of the pending bills in Congress. Once passed into law, the creation of the department will be a significant step towards attaining safe, adaptive and disaster resilient communities by leading efforts to reduce the risk of natural hazards and the effects of climate change,” Roque said in a press briefing.
Currently, under Republic Act 10121, the interagency National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) performs policy-making, coordination, integration, supervision, monitoring, and evaluation functions.
“However, this DRRM (disaster risk reduction and management) responsibility is shared among the different lead agencies in such a way that nobody is in charge of the overall disaster resilience on a full-time, focused basis,” the bill’s explanatory note reads.
Roque said among Duterte’s reasons for seeking to establish the department is to have an official leading disaster prevention and management efforts.
“Ayaw niya iyong mga committee-committee ‘no (He doesn’t want committees), gusto niya (he wants that) someone is in charge… So of course, the bill adopted what the President wants – only one person is in charge,” Roque said.
“Although inevitably, there will have to be interagency work because the line agencies do still have their mandates ‘no. But there will be one person calling the shots in case of disasters.”
The bill’s explanatory note also said handling both human-induced and natural disasters are currently lumped under one body – the Office of Civil Defense as the coordinating arm of the NDRRMC.
“This setup is based on the presumption that the competencies, skills, policies, and institutional arrangements necessary to ensure resilience to natural hazards and human-induced disasters are the same,” the explanatory note reads.
“However, the realities of Mother Nature and climate change debunk this presumption. A careful review of each of the natural hazards that the country faces will show that the Department necessitates a highly specialized set of personnel, resources and policies to bring about disaster resilience.”
The bill seeks the creation of a National Disaster Operations Center (NDOC) and its corresponding Alternative Command and Control Centers (ACCCs) which shall monitor, assess, manage, and respond to disasters in all areas of the archipelago.
It also calls for the establishment of a Disaster Resilience Research and Training Institute, “which shall be a platform for providing training, and for collecting, consolidating, managing, and/or sharing knowledge and information resources to improve and/or boost disaster resilience.”
The Philippines is one of the countries most vulnerable to natural hazards and the effects of climate change.
The World Risk Report 2017 cites the Philippines as having the 3rd highest exposure and 3rd highest risk to natural hazards among 173 countries.