“WE should be more proactive when dealing with natural disasters. Dapat maging laging handa sa oras ng sakuna!” Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said as he urged the government and the public to have a change in mindset and approach when dealing with natural disasters and calamities.
In line with this call, the senator also pushed for the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) and a bill mandating the construction of permanent evacuation centers throughout the country.
Go emphasized the vulnerability of the country to natural calamities, saying “It is high time that we fully recognize that our 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.”
Given that such risk constantly poses an existential threat to the country, Go said that fostering a culture of proactivity is necessary to ensure the preparedness and safety of Filipinos in times of natural calamities.
“Equally important na proactive tayo bago ang sakuna. Dapat may magtuturo sa mga LGUs at sa mga tao kung ano ang dapat gawin sakaling may darating na sakuna. Handa tayo dapat bago pa ito dumating,” he added.
Go also highlighted the important role of wide information dissemination and educating the public in a community’s disaster preparedness effort given the unpredictability and potential severity of natural disasters.
“We should acknowledge the fact that government as a whole can do more to educate and inform the public when it comes to disaster preparedness. Lalo na po sa mga LGUs na malapit sa bulkan o palaging tinatamaan ng bagyo,” Go said.
“This is also one of the reasons why I am pushing for the creation of DDR. Parte ng magiging mandate nito ay ang information dissemination and role in educating the Filipinos better on how to prepare for and respond to such natural occurences,” he added.
Located in the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire,” an area where earthquakes and volcanic activities are more frequent than in any other part of the world, the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to these natural hazards.
Its position in the Pacific Ocean also exposes the country to a high number of typhoons and related weather disturbances annually which, with the onset of climate change, may only drastically worsen and increase in frequency.
Given the considerable amount of effort, coordination and resources involved in disaster preparation, management and mitigation, Go underscored the importance of having a central authority that will be in charge of these matters.
“For example, pag health, DOH ang in charge. Kapag housing, that is why department of housing was created. Kapag may Department for Disaster Resilience po, alam ng tao sino lalapitan at sino in charge. Mas magiging mabilis at maayos ang pagresponde natin para matulungan ang mga kababayan nating apektado ng sakuna.”
The senator stressed that the current structure of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) allows it to act as a mere ad hoc inter-agency coordinating body when dealing with disasters.
“Hindi dapat ‘ad hoc’ ang pag-iisip natin pagdating sa kalamidad. ‘Norm’ na sa bansa ang bagyo, lindol, at pati mga active na bulkan. More than structural change in the bureaucracy, we are also pushing for a change in mindset and approach. Dapat palaging handa ang gobyerno para maturuan maging handa ang bawat Pilipino,” he said.
The senator filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 205 or the “Disaster Resilience Act of 2019”. The measure proposes the creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience, “an empowered, highly specialized department with clear unity of command and primarily responsible in ensuring safe, adaptive and disaster-resilient communities.”
The bill seeks to establish a clear system of responsibility for disaster preparedness and response in all levels of the government, given the increasing number of various disasters and the devastation that they bring.
Go also filed recently Senate Bill (SB) 1228, also known as the Mandatory Evacuation Center Act, which mandates the establishment of safe, permanent and dedicated evacuation centers. It will require every city, province and municipality to construct evacuation centers that will be equipped with basic necessities, such as emergency packs and medicines.
“Dapat may higaan, comfort rooms, ‘yung sanitation maayos, hanggang sa makauwi sila sa kanilang mga pamamahay,” he added.