Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero has called for the creation of a task force that would centralize government efforts to mitigate the impact of the Taal Volcano crisis
STAR/ File
Palace sees no need for Taal task force
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 20, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang does not see the need for a task force that will oversee agencies’ response to Taal Volcano’s unrest, but is ready to study a proposal to form a commission that will handle the rehabilitation of affected areas.

Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero has called for the creation of a task force that would centralize government efforts to mitigate the impact of the Taal Volcano crisis

Senate Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, meanwhile, has announced a plan to file a bill creating a Taal Commission, citing the need to fund the rehabilitation of Batangas and Cavite areas affected by the volcanic activity. The proposed body would be similar to the Pinatubo Commission, which provided assistance to the victims of the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, the senator said. 

However, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said there is no need for a task force on Taal because President Duterte is satisfied with the response of officials. 

“For now, I don’t see any need for that because everything is in place. Everything in place so the President praised them (the agencies),” Panelo said in a radio interview yesterday. 

Asked to react to Recto’s plan to file a bill forming a Taal Commission, Panelo replied: “We will study all good proposals and we will implement it if it would benefit our countrymen.” 

Panelo said it would be up to Duterte to decide whether such a bill would be certified as urgent. 

The Office of the President, Panelo said, is ready to release additional funds to assist areas affected by the Taal Volcano crisis if necessary.

“For now, our funds are still OK,” the Palace spokesman said.

Workers yesterday sought inclusion to the proposed Taal Commission.

The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) urged Recto to include two workers, or at least one female worker, as members of the commission.

The FFW said they support the creation of a rehab commission, which should also have the voice of workers.

Federation president Sonny Matula also lauded the immediate hiring of 6,000 workers in the affected areas of Taal Volcano eruption. 

“This is a big help for a number of displaced families now in dire need of livelihood due to the recent volcano eruption,” Matula said.

Matula urged the Department of Labor and Employment to hire more of the 150,000 people from Taal area.

The FFW also called on DOLE to expedite the adoption of the implementing rules for Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers or TUPAD.

Disaster management

The Senate and the House of Representatives will soon convene the joint congressional oversight committee on disaster management as the government tries to consolidate relief efforts, and come up with a comprehensive rehabilitation plan for areas affected by Taal’s activity, Sen. Francis Tolentino revealed yesterday.

Congress and the Senate will resume session today following a month-long holiday break.

Tolentino, who once was the Mayon Volcano crisis manager, said the Senate is just waiting for the House to submit the names of their representatives to the joint committee before the panel could meet and start reviewing the government’s disaster prevention and management efforts.

 “This has oversight functions so we can look at the disbursements, especially the QRF (quick response funds). Many agencies have their own QRFs. We can seek an accounting, especially on rehabilitation in past programs,” the senator told dzBB when asked whether or not Congress will look into possible misuse of financial assistance.

 He, however, said he was so far satisfied with the response of various national and local government agencies, as he cited the private sector as well for contributing much to the relief efforts.

 Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the chamber will immediately work on the passage of the bill seeking to create the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR).

 “The creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience will ensure a more efficient, coordinated and complete system of disaster management – from risk assessment to emergency response, right down to reintegration assistance and rehabilitation. The Office of Civil Defense is stretched to the limit. We now realize that to fully utilize their skills, capacities and leadership, the creation of an appropriate government agency is at hand,” Zubiri said.  Zubiri also called for the passage of the National Hazard Mapping Act of 2019, which once enacted, resources can be directed to concerned agencies for the identification of high risk areas and pinpoint possibilities of occurrence, magnitude and location of potential earthquakes, volcanic activity and other natural hazards.

Congress, for its part, has reiterated its vow to expedite the passage of the DDR bill. – With Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla, Helen Flores, Mayen Jaymalin, Ding Cervantes

MIKEE ROMERO RALPH RECTO
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