By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go has expressed his support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to amend Republic Act No. 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.
“Gawin nating mas akma ang ating sistema sa mga hamon ng makabagong panahon at sa mga dagdag na pangangailangan ng mga mamamayan, katulad ng agarang rescue, relief and rehabilitation,” Go said.
“Dapat, one-step ahead tayo sa gobyerno dahil hindi natin alam kung kailan magkakaroon ulit ng mga krisis at sakuna katulad ng hinaharap natin ngayon,” he added.
Under RA 10121, there is no concept of anticipatory action and an earlier declaration of a state of calamity prior to actual damage by various calamities. President Duterte earlier described the current law as a legal hurdle that prevents swift government action.
Go said that he is consulting concerned authorities in order to propose a measure that can amend this law and expedite the process of declaring a state of calamity in severely affected areas, when necessary, by waiving the need for a thorough assessment of damage prior to a declaration. This, he said, will subsequently hasten the release of necessary public funds for disaster response.
“Bukod sa kasalukuyang mga pagsisikap para makontrol ang pagkalat ng virus, nananatili rin akong nakatuon sa paghahanda ng bansa sa mga posibleng krisis na ating madadaanan sa hinaharap,” he assured.
In his Talk to the People address on Monday, January 10, Duterte pointed out the flaws of RA 10121 when it comes to dealing with disasters. The law, according to the President, stipulates that a declaration of state of calamity may only be made, as well as the release of funds, after the conduct of the damage assessment and needs analysis, delaying government response.
“I hope we can correct these things before we go out,” said Duterte, as he asked Senator Go to look into the matter and lead efforts to rectify the existing law before his term ends.
“We can propose something like this…’yung mga (some) corrective measures sa batas (in the law). Kasi the next time na wala na tayo (So when we are no longer here), at least ‘yung (the) next administration would be in a position to deal with the problem faster and more sensible,” Duterte added.
Under Section 16 of RA 10121, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council shall recommend to the President the declaration of a cluster of barangays, municipalities, cities, provinces, and regions under a state of calamity, and the lifting thereof, based on the criteria set by the National Council. The President’s declaration may warrant international humanitarian assistance as deemed necessary.
“It could be a post-disaster that would be done immediately. It would take time… the assessment of which would really depend now on the ability of the Executive Department to release the money immediately,” Duterte explained.
On his part, Go said he supports the call of the President to improve the existing mechanisms so that the next administration can proactively cope with calamities and other natural disasters.
“Suportado ko po ang panawagan ng Pangulo na i-amend ang mga probisyon ng RA 10121 upang mapabilis ang disaster response. Buhay po ang nakataya sa bawat oras na nadedelay ang pagkilos ng gobyerno pagdating ng sakuna,” Go said.
“Hinihikayat ko rin po ang mga kasamahan ko sa Kongreso na suportahan ang hangarin nating lahat na mas maging epektibo ang pagresponde ng gobyerno sa mga kalamidad,” Go added.
Moreover, Go previously filed Senate Bill No. 205, otherwise known as the Department of Disaster Resilience Act, which seeks to create a highly specialized agency with a clear unity of command that will be tasked with ensuring adaptive, disaster-resilient and safe communities.
“Base rin sa naging pahayag ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte noong Lunes ng gabi sa kanyang Talk to the People address, muli kong hinihikayat ang mga kapwa ko mambabatas na ipasa na natin ang panukalang magtatatag ng Department of Disaster Resilience,” Go said.
The department shall concentrate on three key result areas, namely: disaster risk reduction, disaster preparedness and response, and recovery and building forward better.
“Ang Department of Disaster Resilience ang magko-coordinate sa national at local governments para bago dumating ang bagyo, naka-prepare na ang mga kakailanganin. Kapag nandiyan na ito, alam na kung saang ligtas na lugar dadalhin ang mga kababayan natin. Ang departamento rin ang mamumuno sa rehabilitation at recovery efforts. Back to normalcy agad ang target natin ‘pag may nasasalanta,” explained Go.
SBN 205 is currently pending in the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation. Hearings were conducted on November 11, 2019 and February 2, 2021. A committee report is yet to be submitted to the plenary.
To further mitigate the impacts of disasters on local communities, Go also renewed his commitment to push for the passage of Senate Bill No. 1228 which provides for the establishment of an evacuation center in every municipality, city and province.
“Besides providing temporary shelter, they should also be able to cater to the victims’ basic needs. Mayroon dapat itong sapat na mga emergency packs, katulad ng blankets, tubig, at gamot na handa na tuwing may sakuna,” he said.
Urging the country to learn from past experiences and lessons from the current COVID-19 pandemic, Go said it is high time that the nation scales up its preparedness and resilience against pandemics and natural disasters.
“The focus is on preparation and resilience,” said Go in his previous statements.
“We should shift our focus from ‘damage control’ to ‘damage mitigation and control’,” he added.
On December 18, two days after Typhoon Odette hit, Duterte and Go conducted aerial inspections of Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Islands and Southern Leyte. 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. (ai/mtvn)