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Senate head cries foul

Vicente Sotto III
Vicente Sotto III

SENATE President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III has turned the tables on Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, saying it is unfair for the congressman to use the P10 billion budget for the proposed New Senate Building in questioning some senators’ opposition to a bill seeking to create the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) that will require an initial P2 billion funds.

Sotto said it is unfair to drag the funding requirement for the construction of the Senate Building into the refusal of some senators to approve the DDR measure, citing budgetary constraints.

“Walang kinalaman ‘yon sa pagtayo ng ibang departamento. It’s not fair to include that. Magkaiba ‘yon, eh. Huwag niyang idikit ‘yon. Hindi naman kami ang makikinabang dito, ‘yong mga darating pang Senado[r].

Imbes na nagbabayad sila, may sarili na silang building,” Sotto stressed.

Salceda, the main author of the DDR bill, said some senators should reconsider their earlier stance against the legislation in light of the typhoon and series of calamities that hit the country since the past month.

He said the government can look for funds for DDR which will institutionalize the country’s disaster preparedness and response.

The House of Representatives in September had already approved the measure on third and final reading under the leadership of former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

It is one of the priority measures enumerated by President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte in his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Amidst the refusal of the Senate, several lawmakers from the House of Representatives took a stand on the importance of the passage of the DDR bill.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers believed that the DDR will set a clear direction on calamity response and determine who’s to be made accountable over the poor response.

However, despite the overwhelming expression of support from the House of Representatives, more senators are now expressing reservations on the passage of the measure with Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian joining Sotto, Sens. Franklin Drilon, Richard Gordon and Panfilo Lacson in opposing the bill.

Gatchalian said that the creation of the DDR needs further study.

He added that instead of centralizing the disaster response via the DDR, it would be better if the local government units’ capacity in providing disaster relief will be strengthened.

“Naging mayor din ako ng 9 years, ayaw natin ng isang napakabigat na centralized approach dahil kung lahat ng desisyon o tulong ay manggagaling pa sa Metro Manila ay talagang huli na. Hindi lang pondo ang problema dito, ang konsepto din. Gusto ba natin centralized o decentralized. Ang pananaw ng mga senador dapat nasa LGU ang kakayahan,” he explained.

But with the series of strong typhoons and storms (Ofel, Quinta, Rolly, Tonyo and Ulysses) that hit the country just recently, Salceda pointed out that it has just become evident how the country is ill-prepared in responding to calamities.

Nevertheless, the congressman from Albay said that he is still banking on the political leadership of the current administration and hoping that the Duterte Coalition will exert its influence and power so that the DDR bill will be passed into law.