Disaster watch, warning system upgrade urged

Martin Romualdez

TIME to fast track the acquisition of equipment needed to upgrade the country’s monitoring and warning program for volcanic eruption, earthquake and tsunami.

House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez reminded the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) about its P221 million budget for this year that can be used in upgrading its equipment.

Romualdez made the appeal following complaints from residents of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon (CALABARZON) on the lack of adequate warnings related to the impact of the phreatic explosion of Taal Volcano late Sunday afternoon.

“We do not fault the Philvolcs for the lack of adequate warnings on the impact of the phreatic explosion. We are aware that it is really difficult to predict the occurrence of volcanic eruption and related disasters,” Romualdez, president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) and Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), said.

According to Romualdez, in preparation for the effects of natural calamities, Congress has included more than P221.48 million capital outlays in the P588.12 million total budget of Phivolcs for 2020.

“We need to upgrade the country’s monitoring and warning program for volcanic eruption, earthquake and tsunami,” he added.

Disaster dep’t

At the same time, Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez, the chairperson of the House Committee on the Welfare of Children, said the Taal Volcano explosion also underscores the need for Congress to expedite the enactment into law of the proposed bill creating the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR).

“Time and again, the wrath of nature reminds us to come up with strategic and systematic approaches to disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness and response,” said Yedda said.

Yedda, one of the principal authors of DDR, said the measure will be accountable and responsible for overseeing, coordinating and implementing a comprehensive disaster risk and vulnerability reduction and management programs and redirect policy drifts among other agencies handling such tasks.

The House committees on government reorganization and disaster management already approved, last November 20, the still-unnumbered substitute bill consolidating all measures re-filed in the 18th Congress establishing the DDR.

On November 25, 2019, the DDR hurdled the House Committee on Ways and Means chaired by Albay Rep. Joey Salceda.

The Salceda panel granted exemption from taxes, import duties and donor’s tax on foreign donations, and goods and services donated from abroad under DDR.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano also pressed Congress to pass the measure creating the Department of Disaster Resilience.

The passage of the measure proposing the creation of DDR will be a priority of the House when session resumes next week.

He appealed to other Filipinos to continue praying for the safety and protection of every people especially those within the danger areas near the Taal Volcano.

“Meanwhile, let us continue to monitor the developments and coordinate with our respective local government units related to the eruption of the Taal Volcano. We appeal for national unity amid these challenging times and vigilance in the face of possible effects of the said volcanic activities,” he said.

Mask hoarding

In a related development, ACT-CIS Rep. Nina Taduran appealed to the pharmacies, grocery stores, hardwares and individual sellers that are overcharging consumers rushing  to buy masks and other supplies to protect themselves from the dangers of the Taal volcano eruption.

“It has come to my attention that certain stores have been charging 200 and up per N95 mask, and there are several individuals who are raking in immense profit after hoarding the masks and selling them online. They face a penalty of 10, 000 fine or imprisonment of up to 1 year or both under the Consumer Law,” Taduran said.

Section 52 of the Philippine Consumer Act, or the Unfair or Unconscionable Sales Act or Practice prohibits sellers from exploiting buyers based on “physical or mental infirmity, ignorance, illiteracy, lack of time or the general conditions of the environment or surroundings.”

ACT-CIS Partylist will visit the evacuation centers in Batangas and deliver free masks and other relief goods to the victims of the eruption.  

In another development Cayetano assured members of Congress in the affected areas and their constituents of enough support from the House of Representatives.