SENATOR Grace Poe underscored anew the need for a permanent disaster management department as several areas in southern Luzon grapple with the impact of the Taal Volcano eruption.
Poe said it is time for the country to have a Department of Disaster Resilience and Emergency Assistance and Management, which she is pushing in her Senate Bill No. 124 that she filed last year.
“I think the eruption of Taal volcano gives yet another reason for the establishment of this department,” Poe said in a radio interview Tuesday.
“We really need a department that has a mandate of focusing on preventing tragedy during a calamity, correct and timely response, and adequate and proper rehabilitation, including acceptable relocation of victims,” Poe said.
Under the bill, the department will have a Bureau of Disaster Resiliency, which will focus on mitigation, prevention, and post-disaster rehabilitation; Bureau of Disaster Preparation and Response, which will handle the operations immediately before, during, and immediately after a disaster; and the Bureau of Knowledge Management and Dissemination, which will build up and disseminate technical knowledge on disaster risk reduction management.
Structurally, the department shall consist of two separate and distinct entities, which are NDRRMC and the department proper.
“Noon pa ito ay na-file ko na kasi iyong ating NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) ngayon, bagama’t sila ay abala sa mga nangyayari, hindi pa ito ganap na departamento. So, ano ang ibig sabihin n’yan? Wala talagang secretary o Cabinet rank level kaya coordinating council lang talaga sila,” Poe said.
The NDRRMC shall retain its policy-making and coordinating functions under Republic Act 10121, or the “Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010,” while the department proper shall be the secretariat and executive arm envisioned to provide leadership with accountability. The department shall also have local offices in every region.
Poe said that while the NDRRMC has a head, the council is actually composed of several departments like the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health, and Department of Public Works and Highways.
Poe stressed that in times of calamities and disasters, it is critical that someone is in charge.
“Dapat may isang kalihim na magiging responsable,” she said.
Thousands of families in Batangas province and nearby areas have been affected by ashfall that has blanketed roads, home and structures following the Taal eruption.
Poe earlier called on concerned government agencies and local government units to be on watch against unscrupulous businessmen who might take advantage of the situation by jacking up prices of basic commodities and other items on high demand such as face masks.