2 gov’t execs wary of having separate department for disaster risk reduction
MANILA, Philippines — At least two government officials have expressed apprehension with the proposed creation of a separate department that would address natural and man-made calamities.
Defense Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad believes that it would be “very overwhelming” to give all the responsibilities of disaster reduction risk and management such as prevention and mitigation to only one department.
Jalad is concurrent administrator of the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) and executive director of of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
Even in advanced countries, Jalad said there is no National Disasters Risk Reduction and Management department or agency.
“What they have is emergency management agency. Because it’s in the function of emergency management wherein we have the urgency to consolidate all the efforts regarding emergency management of the different governments,” he pointed out during a joint hearing in the Senate on Monday.
The joint hearing led by the Senate committee on national defense is deliberating on various bills, proposing the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience.
“So the question is, do we need a department for disaster risk reduction management? I think that’s very very overwhelming. We might have problem with the capacity of the department to function all those responsibilities…” Jalad further said.
Jalad though admitted that at present, the main challenge in responding to areas hit by calamities is the inter-agency coordination as different responsibilities related to disaster reduction risk and management are lodged in various government agencies.
Even if a new department is created, it could not still perform the other functions such as the preparation and mitigation that are being undertaken by other agencies, Secretary of Eduardo Del Rosario also said during the hearing.
Del Rosario previously headed the OCD. He now chairs the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and the Task Force Bangon Marawi.
While the OCD is mandated to undertake disaster management, Del Rosario noted that the mandate for preparation is given to the Department of Interior and Local Government while prevention and mitigation is given to the Department of Science and Technology.
“I think what we need is really to reinforce the OCD so that it can be more adaptive to the response and the rehabilitation aspect given the budget that would capacitate the office to implement the rehabilitation projects,” he said.
When he was at the helm of the OCD, he said, the office only had 300 people. But today, the agency has 600 people with only 18 to 20 per region.
“If the OCD can have a strong presence so that they can participate in prevention, preparation in tandem with relevant agencies; their presence should be at least up to the provincial level,” Del Rosario said.
“So if their presence strength of the OCD can be enhanced , make it more relevant in the implementation of its job, I think that would be very significant step so that we can make the OCD work better,” he added. /je
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