Creation of ‘Department of Disaster Resilience’ sought
MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers have filed a bill that seeks the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR).
Leyte 1st district Rep. Martin G. Romualdez and two other House members have filed House Bill (HB) No. 13 to better manage the country’s disaster risk reduction and response efforts.
“It is high time that we create a truly empowered department that will focus on natural hazards and disasters, characterized by unity of command, a science and ICT-based approach, and the capacity to take charge of three key result areas: disaster risk reduction; preparedness and response; and recovery, rehabilitation and building forward better,” indicated the bill’s explanatory note.
The Philippines is now the second nation in the world most vulnerable to climate change and disasters, with up to 19 tropical storms entering its area of responsibility, of which six to nine make landfall.
The bill stated that 74 percent of Filipinos and 80 percent of the country’s land area are exposed to the risk of natural calamities.
“This ‘new normal’ requires a more focused and in-depth attention in the way we understand, prepare and respond to natural disasters,” the explanatory note stressed.
Romualdez’s co-authors of HB 13 are Representatives Yedda Marie K. Romualdez and Jude Acidre, both of Tingog party-list group.
As proposed, the proposed DDR shall be the primary disaster management agency.
“It shall integrate and define what needs to be done, where it needs to be done, based on what standards, how it should be done, and how well it should be done,” the bill’s explanatory note said.
Among the department’s powers is to draw up and implement an integrated and comprehensive disaster risk reduction, preparedness, and response management program.
In implementing such a program, the DDR may undertake emergency measures, including preemptive or forced evacuation, imposition of curfew, and rationing of basic goods.
The agency would set up an operations center, an alternative command and control center, and a disaster resilience and training institute.
The bill also outlines coordination among the DDR, other concerned government agencies, and local government units (LGUs), whose relevant units shall be renamed local disaster resilience offices.
The department shall inherit the funds and personnel of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and related agencies.
The bill also requires LGUs to set aside at least five percent of the annual budget as a local disaster resilience fund.
The proposed law likewise lists several prohibited acts, including selling or misuse of relief goods and misappropriation of funds.
It imposes penalties ranging from a fine of not less than P100,000 to administrative suspension of six months and dismissal from the service.
The DDR bill was approved on third reading by the last Congress. The Romualdezes were among the principal authors.
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