MANILA - Creating a new department handling disasters, with a minimum of 700 personnel, would require at least P1-billion in additional funds yearly, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said Monday.
DBM Director Clotilde Drapete gave this estimate when asked by Senate Committee on National Defense chairman Panfilo Lacson about the needed funds for a new agency to be called the Department of Disaster Resiliency (DDR).
Lacson raised the question as the committee opened its public hearing on at least 11 proposed measures that seek to create this new department.
“When you create a new department, magkano ang aabutin ng recurring appropriations?” Lacson asked the DBM, citing government expenses for the newly created Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Department of Housing as examples.
“For an average of 700 positions per department, mga P1 billion Sir ang basic… PS [Personnel Services], MOOE [Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses]...basic," Drapete said.
Lacson underlined his own reservation to the proposal.
“As a matter of policy direction, do we create another department that will further bloat an already bloated bureaucracy, or simply make do with a council called NDRRMC [National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council] that has no focus and responsibility to address natural and man-made calamities that have become permanent and frequent in a country such as ours,” Lacson, in his opening speech, pointed out.
Among those who attended the hearing were Office Of Civil Defense Administrator Ricardo Jalad, and Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and chairperson of Task Force Bangon Marawi.
Both registered their strong reservations to the creation of such a separate department to address disaster and rehabilitation.
“Having a department with all the functions regarding disaster risk reduction and management, specifically prevention, and mitigation, preparedness response and rehabilitation, recovery. To place all those functions in one department is very overwhelming,” Jalad said.
Even other countries only have an emergency response team tasked to address emergency situations, instead of departments, he added.
Echoing Jalad’s views, Del Rosario said what is only needed is to strengthen the Office of Civil Defense and give it the authority to direct government agencies during disasters or calamities.
Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri, however, maintained there is a need to create a specific department for disasters to avoid “finger-pointing”.
Under Zubiri’s proposal, the proposed disaster department will “take on the powers and functions of the Office of Civil Defense, the Climate Change Office of the Climate Change Commission, the Geo-Hazard Assessment and Engineering Geology Section of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the Health Emergency Management Bureau of the Department of Health, the Disaster Response and Assistance and Management Bureau of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Bureau of Fire Protection, and the Program Management Office for Earthquake Resiliency of the Greater Metro Manila Area.”
Senator Koko Pimentel also believes there is now a need to come up with “specialized” agencies.
“Let’s not have a fixed idea on our minds na kung department, malaki, bloated…a Department of Disaster Resiliency is specialization; Department of Housing, specialization,” Pimentel said.
Senator Francis Tolentino, another bill author, maintained there will be no addition to the already bloated bureaucracy, as the proposed department will just absorb agencies like the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), and Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) personnel, among others.
"Sabi ko nga, mayroon tayong mahigit na 23,000 na BFP personnel, mga bombero natin. Pag nilipat doon 'yun, mayroon kaagad silang 23,000 na personnel. Sa Region 12 na tinamaan ng lindol, mayroon kaagad 1,036 na bombero, so 'yung sinasabi ng DBM na mangangailangan ng 700 personnel, siguro hindi na aabot dun dahil marami namang in place," Tolentino said.
Yet another author of a similar bill, Senator Christopher "Bong" Go, said he will ask the President to certify the measure as urgent, given the chief executive’s personal position on the issue.
"Willing naman po ako mag-adjust kung ano po ang mapagkasunduan. Ang importante po sa akin ay maipasa na po itong DDR. Even Department of Disaster, importante po dito yung word na disaster sa department. Alam nyo, kahit saang mga disaster areas na napupuntahan ko, ang unang tanong ng LGUs [Local Government Units], saan ba sila hihingi ng tulong at sino ang lalapitan nila," Go told reporters.
The committee will set another hearing for the proposed DDR, Lacson said.