Palace submits draft bill creating disaster response agency to Congress

Palace submits draft bill creating disaster response agency to Congress
A man paddles a makeshift boat made of insulation from a refrigerator through a flooded street due to continuous rains caused by tropical depression Josie in Marikina, east of Manila on July 22, 2018.
Noel Celis / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has sent to Congress a draft bill creating a separate agency in charge of disaster risk reduction and response a week after President Rodrigo Duterte stressed the need for such a department during his third State of the Nation Address.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office transmitted the draft bill to the offices of the Senate president and House speaker last Monday. 

"The bill is anchored on government’s experience with previous disasters, among them super typhoon Yolanda. And guided by President Duterte’s leadership principles, the bill is envisioned to have a sole focus on natural hazards and disasters," Roque said in a press briefing Monday. 

"Once passed into law, the creation of the department will be a significant step towards attaining safe, adoptive and disaster resilient communities by leading efforts to reduce the risk of natural hazards and the effects of climate change," he added. 

Typhoon Yolanda ravaged the Visayas in 2013 and left more than 6,000 people dead and damaged about P90 billion worth of properties. 

Roque said the bill would be guided by a disaster resilience framework that would deliver on three key areas namely disaster risk reduction, disaster preparedness and response, and recovery and building forward better.

"The bill adopted what the president wants—only one person is in charge. Although inevitably, there will have to be interagency work because the line agencies do still have their mandates. But there will be one person calling the shots in case of disasters," he said. 

In letters sent to Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, PLLO chief Adelino Sitoy said the bill creating the Department of Disaster Resilience would fulfill the president's SONA statement calling for a strong and empowered department that would focus on natural hazards. 

"We would like to note that the framework, policies, and structure embodied herein would have the effect of overhauling relevant laws, rules and regulations based on the Philippines' experience with mega disasters and on global best practices," Sitoy said in the letter. 

Duterte first called for the creation of the disaster resilience department during his second SONA last year. He echoed the call during his third SONA last July 23. 

At present, the interagency National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) orchestrates disaster response and preparedness efforts. The defense secretary serves as the chairman of the council while the civil defense administrator, which has the rank of undersecretary, acts as the NDRRMC executive director.

The NDRRMC has four vice chairpersons namely the interior and local government secretary for preparedness, the social welfare secretary for response, the science secretary for prevention and mitigation and the socioeconomic planning secretary for rehabilitation and recovery. — Alexis Romero

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