By EV Rieza
Will the proposed creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience or DDR survive in the Senate this time?
A vital measure designed to mitigate the human and socio-economic costs of disasters and pandemics, marked urgent in as many SONAs President Duterte had delivered since 2017, the DDR bill was already passed by the House of Representatives in 2017 and endorsed to the Senate. While there, it lost steam and despite repeated calls for its passage from almost all sectors, languished, and was finally sidelined by the last 2018 elections.
What a tragic consequence for a law that was deemed too vital for the survival of Filipinos.
This time around, however, we have reasons to believe the Department of Disaster Resiliency Act will eventually be enacted. After the 2018 debacle, the bill was refiled in the 18th Congress by its principal author, Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda. It once more made the circuitous way it only knew too well, and was approved as HB 5989 last September 22 with an overwhelming 241 votes. It was endorsed to the Senate two days after.
When signed into law, the act breathes life to DDR, the primary government agency that would be responsible for “leading, organizing, and managing national effort to reduce disaster risk, prepare for and respond to disasters, recover and rehabilitate, and build forward better after the occurrence of disasters.”
The DDR is a solution long sought to address the country’s woes caused by calamities, typhoons most particularly, and – mind you – even pandemics. Both government and private sectors widely agree on the proposal as proven by the minimal, if not insignificant opposition to it. If at all, past disagreements were merely related to its bureaucratic composition, since the bill proposes to take under the DDR’s wings long existing offices that refused to cut umbilical ties with their mother departments. Hopefully, these will be resolved, in the name of survival.
As to whether it will survive the calamitous journey towards enactment into law, specifically in the Senate which is seen to throw down the gauntlet on it, it may probably rely on the person the President himself personally trusts, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, aside from the others who support it in the House.
Salceda who heads the House Ways and Means Committee and chairs the Economic Stimulus Response Package (Covid-19 Ad-Hoc Committee), has expressed confidence the DDR bill will have a strong support in the Senate this time, especially from Go, who authors its Senate version.
Go has continuously pushed for the DDR in the Senate, pointing out the need for a “change in mindset and approach when dealing with natural disasters and calamities given that these situations are regular occurrences in the country, and the hardships caused to the people which are heightened in times of crises such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Go, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, thinks it is high time we all recognize that the country is highly vulnerable to ominous disasters given the frequency of natural calamities, like typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions, that hit and affect us every year.’
“Sa pagpapatayo ng departamentong ito, mas magiging mabilis ang pagtugon ng pamahalaan, mas maiibsan ang masamang epekto ng kalamidad para lalong mabilis na makabangon ang ating mga kababayan pagkatapos ng mga di inaasahang kalamidad,” Go said in Pilipino.
Salceda has lauded the innovations made by Go in the DDR bill, which were incorporated in the House version they passed last September 22, the same version he had tirelessly worked on since 2015.
Salceda and his co-authors of the bill have issued an appeal to the Senate “to expedite the passage of this measure [DDR] that would institutionalize the cohesive, and comprehensive framework for disaster preparedness, prevention and mitigation, and response in our country.”
According to them, the DDR will help the country deal with disasters and emergencies “not as unfortunate incidents whose impacts are beyond our control, but as risks that can be mitigated.”
“We can no longer deny the fact that climate change is real, that we are a volcanically and tectonically active country, and that we face several typhoons each year. Disasters are a fact of Philippine life… but we can mitigate the human and socioeconomic costs of these disasters. DDR will help ensure that we have a full-time agency in charge of keeping us strong and ready for disasters,” Salceda said in a newspaper article.
“Fortune favors the prepared. We cannot avoid typhoons and other calamities that come with our geography. But we can keep the risks low and the damage controlled. That is resilience: being able to achieve meaningful progress despite natural and external adversities,” he added.
We join Congressman Salceda and Senator Go in their resolve to have the DDR bill eventually enacted into law.