MANILA - The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill creating a new disaster management department.
A total of 181 congressmen voted for House Bill 8165, five voted against it while two others abstained.
Principally authored by Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez (1st District, Leyte), the bill also provides that the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) shall oversee and coordinate the preparation, implementation, monitoring, evaluation of disaster and climate resilience plans, programs, and activities.
The DDR shall also provide leadership in the continuous development of strategic and systematic approaches to disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery, and rehabilitation, and anticipatory adaptation strategies, measures, techniques and options.
It shall also augment the capacity of local government units (LGUs) in collaboration with relevant national agencies and other stakeholders to implement disaster risk reduction and management and climate change action plans, programs, projects and activities.
The bill declares it is the duty of the State to carry out and harmonize the policies on disaster risk and vulnerability reduction and management, and climate change adaptation, and sustainable development to uphold the welfare of the people particularly the vulnerable sectors of society.
The DDR shall also have the power to receive donations and grants from any person, government institution, corporation, international organization, and other similar entities, and the power to recommend the procurement of developmental assistance for the purpose of disaster risk and vulnerability reduction and management, and climate change adaptation.
The bill also provides for the creation of the National Disaster Resilience Council (NDRC) which shall be the policy advisory to the DDR on disaster risk reduction and management, and climate change adaptation. It shall be headed by the Secretary of Disaster Resilience and composed of the heads of the different government agencies.
The DDR shall also issue comprehensive guidelines on the initiation, entry, facilitation, transit and regulation of international relief goods and personnel, as well as eligibility guidelines to utilize the legal facilities for assisting international actors.
The bill also provides for penalties for prohibited acts of public officials, and private persons or institutions.
The amount needed for the initial implementation of the Act shall be taken from the current fiscal year’s unexpended appropriation of all agencies absorbed, transferred, and attached to the DDR. Thereafter, the amount needed for the operation and maintenance of the DDR shall be included in the General Appropriations Act.
In a statement, Romualdez thanked her colleagues for their support for the bill.
"I thank my colleagues and Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for their strong commitment to pass the DDR that guarantees a unity of command, science-based approach, and full-time focus on natural hazards and disasters. With Speaker Arroyo’s competence and sterling qualities as experienced leader, we can be assured that the measure will also be approved in the Senate and becomes a law very soon. Speaker Arroyo has a clear vision for the country and has a great ability to get the job done," she said.
Gabriela Party List Representative Arlene Brosas, who voted against the bill, explained her vote.
"We are concerned of the extraordinary powers given to the Secretary of the proposed department to call up government's armed and the reserved forces, powers duly constituted only to the President as the commander-in-chief. May first-hand experience po tayo at natatanggap na mga ulat sa kung paano ang action ng ating armed personnel sa areas of conflict," she said.