The most compelling argument for the creation of a single and properly empowered agency or department for disaster management is the existing National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
The need for such congressional act has become imperative.
The NDRRMC’s nomenclature and unpronounceable acronym cries out for radical change. Its Filipino name, Pambansang Tanggapan Para sa Pagtugon sa Sakuna, is only slightly more comprehensible.
Created under Republic Act 10121 in 2010, the NDRRMC was envisioned as a coordinating group of various government, non-government, civil sector and private sector organizations. It is administered by the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) under the Department of National Defense (DND). The Council utilizes the UN cluster approach to disaster management.
Conceived in this way – for coordination and as a cluster – the council will fundamentally be always engaged in a losing fight with emergency and disaster, especially those that demand timely and immediate intervention, relief, recovery and rehabilitation. No wonder, our government has been found helpless and inadequate by various natural disasters, including Supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan), flooding and earthquake disasters.
Given this history under successive administrations, we are consequently in agreement with the legislative proposal of President Rodrigo Duterte, in his third State of the Nation Address, that the Congress should create by law, as a matter of priority, a department for disaster management.
Specifically, the President told Congress, “To help safeguard the present and the future generations, we have to earnestly undertake initiatives to reduce our vulnerabilities to natural hazards and bolster our resilience to the impact of natural disasters and climate change.
“… We must learn from (our) experiences from Supertyphoon Yolanda and other mega disasters, and from global best practices. We need a truly empowered department characterized by a unity of command, science-based approach and full-time focus on natural hazards and disasters, and the wherewithal to take charge of the disaster risk reduction; preparedness and response; with better recovery and faster rehabilitation.”
“Hence, we, in the Cabinet, have approved for immediate endorsement to Congress the passage of a law creating the Department of Disaster Management … an inter-agency crafted and a high-priority measure aimed at genuinely strengthening our country’s capacity for [resilience]to natural disasters. I fervently appeal to Congress to pass this bill with utmost urgency. Our people’s safety requirements cannot wait.”
Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos has suggested, as a model for the proposed department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the United States.
FEMA’s record is not all that sterling. It got caught with its pants down during the hurricane Katrina emergency in New Orleans and Louisiana. But it has been performing better since.
The crucial point, however, is that FEMA is solely devoted to disaster response and relief during times of emergency and crisis in America.
Our policy must take a similar thrust.
Twenty typhoons visit the Philippines every year, and we live under the ever-present threats of floods, earthquakes and droughts that ruin lives, infrastructure, homes and farm-based livelihood.
Our resiliency programs should be able to snap into place every time there is a disaster or emergency. That’s what a dedicated agency or department is all about.