The proposed Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) bill, (HB 5989), approved by the Lower House last September and now awaiting deliberations in the Senate, could effectively mitigate the “human and socio-economic costs” of disasters in the country once signed into law.
The House first passed the Department of Disaster Resilience Act in 2018 but the national and local elections during the year sidelined it while pending in the Senate. Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, House Ways and Means Committee who principally crafted the bill, refiled it in the 18th Congress and the House passed it last September with an overwhelming 241 votes with seven (7) votes against and one (1) abstention.
Salceda said he believes the measure will have a strong support in the Senate this time, especially because Senator Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong’ Go authored its Senate version where he introduced several innovations which were subsequently incorporated in the House version when refiled.
The Albay lawmaker who had tirelessly worked on and pushed the measure since 2015, has lauded the innovations made by Go, who authored the Senate version of the bills and who likewise continuously pushed for the DDR, pointing out the need for a “change in mindset and approach when dealing with natural disasters and calamities which regularly occur, and the hardships caused to the people are heightened in times of crises such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
President Duterte has repeatedly declared the DDR creation as a priority concern and an answer to the perennial woes brought about by disasters that have lately hit the country with greater strength and frequency. HB 5989 seeks to create the DDR, a new department that will be the primary agency “responsible, accountable, and liable for leading, managing, and organizing national efforts to prevent and reduce disaster risks; prepare for and respond to disasters; and recover, rehabilitate and build forward better after the destruction.”
Following its House approval, Salceda and the bill’s co-authors, have appealed to the Senate “to expedite the passage of the DDR measure that would institutionalize the cohesive, and comprehensive framework for disaster preparedness, prevention and mitigation, and response in our country.”
Salceda said 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,” he stressed.
“We can, however, 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. 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.
Salceda expressed hopes the bill will finally make it this time since everyone may have now clearly felt its urgency, after the country has recently been battered by a number of disasters and emergencies. He also thanked the House leadership for its commitment to pass the DDR bill which provides that the new department “shall plan out disaster risk reduction, management and response under a ‘unified command system’ in tackling geological phenomena like earthquakes and volcanic earuptions; hydrological, oceanographic and meteorological calamities such as tropical cyclones, floods, and erosions, and climate change.”
The idea of an independent agency solely handling calamities was first formulated as a synthesis of insights and experience in disaster risk reduction during Salceda’s term as governor of disaster prone Albay, where the Zero Casualty Goal had become a byword. The DDR will also augment the capacity of local government units. in collaboration with national government agencies and other stakeholders to implement disaster risk reduction and management and climate change action plans.
HB 5989 assigns the Office of Civil Defense as DDR’s core component. Under it will be 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.