Bill creating disaster department hurdles final reading at House of Reps.

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 22 2020 06:35 PM

MANILA - Voting 241 against seven, and with one abstention, the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on third and final reading House Bill 5989 that will create a Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) in government.

TINGOG party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez and House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez of Leyte, which bore the brunt of super typhoon Yolanda in 2013, appealed to the Senate leadership to expedite the passage of the proposed law.

“We appeal to the Senate to expedite the passage of this measure (DDR) that would institutionalize the cohesive, and comprehensive framework for disaster preparedness, prevention and mitigation, and response in our country,” the Romualdez couple said.

“We look forward to collaborating with them on this crucial piece of legislation for the welfare and safety of Filipinos,” they added. “We are confident that the Senate is one with our goal to pass this bill into law this year.”

Several bills on DDR are still pending before the Senate Committees on National Defense and Security, and Peace, Unification and Reconciliation.

The Romualdezes thanked the House leadership for its unwavering commitment to pass the Duterte administration’s priority bills as spelled out in the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“We thank Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Deputy Speakers, chairmen and our dedicated colleagues for passing this priority legislation of President Rodrigo Duterte. We are a step closer to truly protecting the lives of our citizens in times of disasters not just in a reactionary way, but in a proactive, long-term, and sustainable approach,” the Romualdezes said.

Article II, Section 4 of HB 5989 seeks to create the DDR, which will be 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. Its mandate covers all natural hazards.

Under the bill, the DDR may undertake and implement certain emergency measures in anticipation of, during, and in the aftermath of disasters to protect and preserve life and property and ensure and promote public safety and welfare.

Among these emergency measures are carrying out of preemptive and forced evacuation; imposition of curfew; and temporary take over of any private utility or business, subject to payment of just compensation, when there is imminent danger of loss of lives or damage to property.

The proposed measure also intends to establish the National Disaster Operations Center (NDOC), Alternative Command Centers (ACC), and Disaster Resilience Research and Training Institute (DRRTI).

The NDOC is a physical center equipped with necessary tools and systems to monitor, manage, and respond to disasters in all areas of the country, while the ACCs are command centers that would support the NDOC.

The DRRTI, meanwhile, is a platform for providing training preferably on site, and for collecting, consolidating, managing, analyzing, and sharing knowledge and information to improve or enhance disaster resilience.

The bill retains Local DRRM Offices in provinces, cities, and municipalities, and renames them as Provincial, City, and Municipality Disaster Resilience Offices, respectively.

Further, the DDR will have powers to recommend to the President the declaration of a state of calamity, whether in whole or part of an area, in case of an extraordinary disaster wherein the repercussions on public safety and welfare are serious and far-reaching.

The bill renames the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRM Fund), created under Republic Act 2 No. 10121, as the National Disaster Resilience Fund (NDRF), to be managed and controlled by the DDR.

It also gives the President powers to impose administrative sanctions against local chief executives and barangay officials for willful or negligent acts performed in the implementation of, or compliance with, the proposed law and its IRR.

Special courts on disaster resilience matters will also be established once the bill is enacted into law.

The House, in the previous 17th Congress, also passed the same measure on third and final reading.

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The Makabayan bloc, meanwhile, voted against the measure.

In her explanation, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said creating a new department for disaster resilience will not do anything to solve the government's poor disaster response.

"Bumoboto ng 'NO' ang Gabriela Women’s Party sa panukalang bagong Department of Disaster Resilience dahil hindi nito nireresolba ang palpak at mabagal na pagresponde ng gobyerno sa mga biktima ng kalamidad. Dagdag na gastos ito sa burukrasya na ang totoong layunin ay i-militarisa ang disaster risk reduction at higit na isentralisa ang relief at humanitarian work sa kamay ng gobyerno," she said.

"Bakit natin babaguhin at isesentralisa sa isang departamento ang disaster risk reduction gayong kailangan lang i-improve ang umiiral na balangkas sa ngayon? Walang katiyakan na mapopondohan nang sapat ang PAG-ASA, Phivolcs at iba pang importanteng ahensya hinggil sa DRRM sa ilalim ng panukalang ito dahil hindi klaro ang pagdidiin sa suporta sa research and development para palakasin ang kapasidad ng ating bansa na maghanda sa mga kalamidad," she added.

ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro echoed Brosas' opinion.

"Hindi natin kailangan ng bagong ahensya ng gobyerno. Ang mga kailangan natin: kagyat na tugon at aksyon sa mga pangangailangan ng mga biktima ng kalamidad; palakasin ang mga kasalukuyang ahensyang pwedeng makatulong sa disaster response at relief operations sa aspeto ng pondo at personnel; pagpapanagot sa mga ahensya at opisyal na nagpapabaya sa mamamayan sa panahon ng disaster," Castro said.

"Hindi ito ang kasagutan sa mabagal at hindi sapat na pagresponde ng pamahalaan sa mga disasters. Sa halip, ito ay magdadagdag lamang sa aksaya, sentralisasyon ng kapangyarihan, at katiwalian sa paggasta ng pondo ng bayan," Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said for his part.

"Sa pagbubuo ng bagong Department of Resilience, ang kabataaan ay naninindigan na ang kailangan natin bigyan ng prayoridad ay ang pagpapalakas ng ating community-based disaster risk-reduction management, hindi ang buwagin pa ang mga konseho sa grassroots level. Sa community-based DRRM, ito ay kung saan mas binigbigyan pa natin ng mas mataas na kakayahan, na kapasidad, at kapasyahan ang ating mga mamamayan upang maging handa at maging matatag sa panahon ng kalamidad," Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago added.