Malacañang on Tuesday said several lawmakers are in favor of a proposal to create a Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR).
“Hindi naman po bago yang proposal to create this department dahil 17th Congress po I had one version of the bill. So, ibig sabihin talagang maraming mambabatas ang nag-a-agree na kinakailangan po yang departamentong yan (The proposal to create this department is not new because I even had one version of the bill during the 17th Congress. That means, a lot of lawmakers agree that this department is necessary),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a televised Palace briefing.
Roque noted that while the bill has been identified by President Rodrigo Duterte as priority legislation, Malacañang is leaving it up to Congress to decide on it.
“Pero gayunpaman (But still), legislation is the area of the Senate and the House. We welcome any and all discussion dahil in the end, sila ang magsasabatas ng panukalang batas na yan (because in the end, they are the lawmakers of that proposal),” Roque said.
Financial burden for gov’t
Senator Panfilo Lacson said the creation of a new department will undoubtedly be another financial burden for the government.
“It is relatively easy to pass a law creating new departments. But would it be feasible, and will there be proper funding for it? The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) says at least PHP1.5 billion is needed to set up the department,” Lacson said in a statement.
Lacson has instead suggested a dedicated office under the Office of the President with a Cabinet rank and full authority to mobilize concerned government agencies before, during, and after calamities, both natural and man-made, from policy-making and planning to implementation, as it would require much less funding and minimum number of staff and personnel.
Institutionalizing disaster response
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, meanwhile, said the proposal does not merely create an agency, but it also institutionalizes disaster preparedness, response, and future-proofing as a national responsibility with an institutionalized framework.
Salceda said the government can find the funds for the new agency.
“If the problem is funding, then let’s find the funding, and not deny the problem. You know fully well that I am continuously raising funds for the national government through tax policy reforms. But, institutionalizing disaster response is not a mere option for the country. We have to do it,” he said.
Salceda recalled his experience as the governor of Albay where they institutionalized their own Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO), an office that created a culture of preparedness in the province.
“The point is disaster preparedness should no longer be relegated to the reaches of the bureaucracy. The head of disaster preparedness should be able to propose measures straight within the Cabinet and towards the President,” Salceda said.
Clearer chain of command
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go said this measure shall provide a clearer chain of command, more responsive mechanisms, and a more holistic, proactive approach in handling crisis situations in the country where natural disasters are already “normal occurrences.”
“Huwag na natin antayin pa na magkaroon ng panibagong kalamidad. Dapat may isang departamento kung saan secretary level ang mamamahala sa disaster resilience upang maprotektahan ang kabuhayan at kapakanan ng ating mga kababayan (Let’s not wait for another calamity to occur. There should be one department led by a secretary to handle disaster resilience to protect the lives and livelihoods of Filipinos),” Go said.
He added that the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, a mere coordinating body, can be improved further from its current form.
By creating a new department, Go said inter-agency coordination can be streamlined and made more responsive to the changing times. (PNA)