House Ways and Means Chair Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda hailed Speaker Lord Alan Velasco’s recent call for the Senate to pass the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) bill which he said reflects the lower chamber’s universal sentiment on the long stalled proposal it had overwhelmingly passed earlier.
Velasco has called on the Senate to prioritize the passage of the DRR bill, as Typhoon Quinta battered different parts of Luzon, and as more weather disturbances were forecast to hit the country during the week.
“We earnestly urge our counterparts in the Senate to pass their own version so we can subsequently work on the enrolled bill…” said Velasco, adding that the DDR creation will “allow us to be constantly prepared and well-equipped when natural disasters occur…. enable other departments to put all their focus and efforts in helping the country recover from Covid-19.”
House Bill 5989 also known as the DDR Act, was passed by the lower house on third and final reading last September 21 with an overwhelming 241 votes. It was deemed as the country’s blueprint for survival against natural calamities and even pandemics, certified urgent by President Duterte many times. The measure now awaits deliberations in the Senate.
Salceda, principal author of the DDR bill, said Velasco’s call reflects the sentiment of the entire House and echoes the people’s long unanswered need for a well prepared and well-coordinated response to disasters that should mitigate the dangers they pose and minimize human sufferings and miseries.
He said the DDR will be the primary agency “responsible, accountable, and liable for leading, managing, and organizing national efforts to address and mitigate disaster risks; prepare for and respond to disasters; and recover, rehabilitate and build forward better after the destruction.”
The agency, he added, is designed to effectively lessen the “human and socio-economic costs” of disasters in the country once signed into law. It was approved in 2017 by the Lower House but was stalled and overtaken by the 2018 elections in the Senate.
Salceda has earlier expressed confidence the DDR bill will be finally enacted this time since it is authored by Senator Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong’ Go in the upper chamber, who himself introduced innovations into the bill.
Go has also continuously pushed for DDR’s passage, 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 are heightened in times of crises such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
Following its House approval, Salceda, along with the bill’s co-authors, has issued an appeal to the Senate “to expedite the passage of the measure [DDR] that would institutionalize the cohesive, and comprehensive framework for disaster preparedness, prevention and mitigation, and response in our country.”
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,” explained Salceda.
“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,” he stressed.
“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,” Salceda added.
HB 5989 provides that the DDR plans out disaster risk reduction, management and response under a “unified command system” in tackling geological phenomena such as earthquakes and volcanic activities; hydrological, oceanographic and meteorological calamities such as tropical cyclones, floods, and erosions; and climate change events, such as El Nino or La Nina, which cause droughts and floods, respectively.
The lawmaker said the DDR shall likewise augment the capacity of local government units, in collaboration with relevant national government agencies and other stakeholders, in undertaking disaster risk reduction and management and climate change action plans, programs, projects, and activities.
The bill assigns the Office of Civil Defense as DDR’s core organization, under which are integrated the Climate Change Commission Office, the Health Emergency Management Bureau of the Department of Health (DOH), the Disaster Response Assistance, and the Disaster Response Management Bureau of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.