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Senate eyeing creation of relief, rehab agency

Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - December 6, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate is eyeing the creation of an agency similar to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the US government to deal with relief and rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of calamities, Senate President Franklin Drilon said yesterday.

He said the disaster agency was among the issues he discussed with US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, who paid him a courtesy call at the Senate.

"We are looking at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and how it works," he said.

"We are looking at the possibility of having a permanent government structure instead of what we have today," he added.

Drilon noted that under the present setup, an ad hoc council – the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council - handles relief and rehabilitation efforts.

He stressed the need to improve the government's disaster management following the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda.

"I understand a lot of improvement happened after (Hurricane) Katrina and we're looking at that to see the good practices we can adopt here so we'll be able to respond effectively to disasters that will visit us in the future. No question about that," he said.

He noted that the lack of permanent agency to deal with disasters prompted President Aquino to appoint former senator Panfilo Lacson as rehabilitation czar.

Also during their meeting, Drilon said he thanked Goldberg for the nearly $52-million assistance fund that the US government gave to Yolanda victims.

Full cooperation

Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay assured Lacson of the full cooperation of shelter agencies.

"This is an enormous challenge that cannot be done by one person. Senator Lacson can count on my full support as well as that of the National Housing Authority and other key shelter agencies," Binay, chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, said.

Lacson earlier said he would consult Binay regarding housing rehabilitation efforts.

"It is important that we get experts on board, not only from government but also from the private sector, especially in rebuilding communities," Binay said.

"We need to ensure that the new homes and communities we build for the survivors are sustainable and resilient to climate-change," he added.

New benchmark

Sen. Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate committees on climate change and environment and natural resources, said Yolanda is the new benchmark for disaster prevention and preparedness.

Legarda outlined ways for the communities to be resilient during disasters, including the need to manage risks rather that manage disasters, make every Filipino "disaster-literate," establish high reliability of disaster data, protect the environment and disaster preparation.

"Building on good risk reduction practices means going back to the very basics: protecting our ecosystems and natural buffers such as mangrove forests to mitigate floods, storm surges and other hazards," she said.

She said preparing for disaster means knowing it fully well and the dangers it brings. 

"When and where a typhoon will strike, and how, are critical knowledge that will allow the community to timely seek safer ground and fully protect their homes and properties," she said.

– With Jess Diaz, Jose Rodel Clapano

 

 

 

AMBASSADOR PHILIP GOLDBERG BINAY DISASTER DRILON FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT COORDINATING COUNCIL JOSE RODEL CLAPANO LACSON LOREN LEGARDA NATIONAL DISASTER RISK REDUCTION AND MANAGEMENT COUNCIL
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