Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday urged the members of the next Congress to act swiftly on proposals to establish a Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR), saying disaster response should not be done on the fly in a country as prone to natural calamities as the Philippines.
This as the Taal Volcano in Batangas was put on Alert Level 3 following a phreatomagmatic eruption that sent a cloud of steam and ash nearly a mile into the atmosphere.
Residents of at least six barangays in the town of Laurel, Batangas have been ordered to evacuate as a result of the eruption.
“The 19th Congress should prioritize (establishing) the Department of Disaster Resilience. We owe it to our people to provide a coherent, reliable response system during calamities such as the Taal eruption,” Cayetano said, addressing those who would be part of the next Congress.
“We can’t have an ad-hoc response to disasters every time. Alam naman nating may mga bulkan tayo at nililindol tayo, lagi tayong may mga bagyo, we have to have an agency in charge of this and systems in place para ready to respond tayo lagi,” he added.
(We already know that we live near volcanoes and we have earthquakes, we’re always hit by storms, we have to have an agency in charge of this and systems in place so that we’re always ready to respond in these times.)
Cayetano was one of the principal authors of House Bill No. 5989 and led its approval as Speaker in September 2020. The Senate version of the measure, however, remains pending up to now.
Under H.B. No. 5989, the DDR will be the primary government agency responsible for leading, organizing, and managing the national effort to reduce disaster risk, prepare for and respond to disasters, recover and rehabilitate, and build forward better after the occurrence of disasters.
It would also oversee and coordinate the preparation, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of disaster and climate resilience plans, programs, projects, and activities, among others.
The establishment of a government agency in charge of disaster response is a long-running advocacy of the former Speaker, going back to his previous stint as senator when in November 2013 he filed a bill calling for an Emergency Response Department in the aftermath of Supertyphoon Yolanda.
“Hindi tayo pwedeng laging react lang nang react, dapat proactive tayo. Kailangan na talaga natin ng isang Department of Disaster Resilience na tututok sa rehabilitation,” Cayetano said in a statement earlier this year.
(We shouldn’t get used to just responding to disasters, we should instead be proactive. We really need a Department of Disaster Resilience to take charge of rehabilitation.)
“We have to have an agency that will manage the economic recovery of places hard-hit by disasters,” he added.
Cayetano, who is the only senate candidate to publicly declare an eco-friendly campaign, said climate change has made it imperative for the government to create a single agency that would tackle disaster preparation, response, and rehabilitation.
“Alam naman natin na y’ung climate change nandyan (We already know that climate change is here)… we should really have basic protocols to be able to deliver,” the former Speaker said.