By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Christopher “Bong” Go maintained the need for a more streamlined and holistic response to disasters and other calamities as he renewed his call for the passage of Senate Bill No. 205, also known as the “Disaster Resilience Act”.
The bill, which Go filed in 2019, aims to address the bureaucratic challenges that undermine the government’s ability to better respond and provide support to individuals affected by disasters. To do so, it establishes the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR), a highly-specialized agency that will prepare against the devastating effects of climate change and ensure a more proactive approach to natural disasters.
SBN 205 is currently pending in the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation.
“I will not lose hope. Patuloy akong mananawagan. Maybe, at the proper time, ay maipapasa na rin ito dahil kailangan talaga natin ng cabinet-level na secretary […] para mas mabilis ‘yung koordinasyon between the national government agencies and local government offices,” stressed Go.
“Ito ang dahilan kung bakit paulit-ulit ko nang sinasabi na dapat may secretary-level na in-charge para mayroong timon na tagapamahala ng preparedness, response and resilience mechanisms pagdating sa mga krisis at sakuna,” he continued.
The DDR will bring together all essential functions and mandates currently scattered among various disaster-related agencies. Once established, it shall be primarily responsible for implementing programs, projects and activities that ensure communities are disaster-resilient, adaptive, and safe.
To support the DDR’s functions and responsibilities, SBN 205 provides for the creation of an Integrated Disaster Resilience Information System (IDRIS) which will serve as a database of all relevant disaster risk reduction and climate change information. The IDRIS will allow the timely and accurate processing, analysis and dissemination of information to ensure effective decision-making and coordination at the national and local levels of government.
Moreover, the bill also provides for the establishment of a Humanitarian Assistance Action Center, a one-stop-shop for the processing and release of goods, equipment and services, in order to guarantee the timely delivery of assistance to disaster-stricken areas.
It likewise provides for remedial measures for areas under a state of calamity, such as the imposition of price ceiling on basic necessities and prime commodities, programming or reprogramming of funds for the repair of public infrastructures, and grant of no-interest loans by lending institutions to vulnerable groups or individuals.
Finally, the measure establishes the National Disaster Operations Center and Alternative Command and Control Centers to monitor, manage and respond to disasters. There will also be a Disaster Resilience Research and Training Institute which will offer training and collect, manage and share information to improve the country’s resilience.
With the enactment of the 2022 General Appropriations Act, Go assured that the government has allocated the necessary funds to rebuild the infrastructure and spur the recovery of communities affected by Typhoon Odette.
“Inaasahan natin… na pagdating ng January, pwede nang gamitin ni Pangulong (Rodrigo) Duterte kaagad (itong budget) para sa mga Quick Response Fund ng mga iba’t ibang ahensya at sa mga infrastructure. Makakatulong ito sa mga local government units dahil marami ang tinamaan at … naging biktima,” he said in an interview on Thursday, December 30.
“Makakatulong itong budget natin sa pag-rehabilitate … ‘yung tulong sa pabahay, housing materials at sa agrikultura. Aside from 2021, sabi (ni Pangulong Duterte sa mga ahensya) na gamitin ninyo ‘yung pondong natitira sa Quick Response Fund niyo. Tulungan ninyo ang mga kababayan natin,” he continued.
On December 18, two days after Typhoon Odette hit, Go personally accompanied the President during aerial inspections of Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Islands and Southern Leyte. During a briefing in Maasin City, President Duterte pledged to release P1 billion in calamity funds to the affected local government units and another billion to the concerned government agencies.
They were likewise on hand to comfort victims in Cebu, Bohol and Negros Island from December 19 to 20. They returned to Siargao Island and Dinagat Islands on December 22, visited Palawan and Cebu on December 23, and Negros Oriental on December 29.