Pia seeks unified agency to respond to disasters

Building on the country’s progress to respond to both natural and human-made calamities, Senator Pia S. Cayetano filed a bill seeking to merge the functions of different agencies involved in disaster risk reduction and management to form the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR).

She said that while the current law (Philippine Disaster Reduction and Management Act or RA 10121) coordinated the efforts of various agencies on disaster risk reduction, there remains a need to establish a single, accountable agency in charge of responding to disasters. 

Cayetano’s proposed “Department of Disaster Resilience Act” mandates a sole government department to take over the policy-making, coordination, and monitoring functions of the present ad hoc inter-agency council on disaster risk reduction and management. 

In stressing the need for a separate agency for disaster resilience, Cayetano cited that the Word Risk Index ranks the Philippines third among nations with the highest risk from disasters, next to Vanuatu and Tonga.

“Owing to our geographical and natural features, the Philippines is inherently prone to disasters, both natural and human-made. And more so in the era of climate change, where extreme weather conditions have become the new normal and reality for many Filipinos,” Cayetano pointed out. 

The bill also aims to implement the principles of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework, and the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022 in addressing disaster risks and climate change. 

The proposed DDR will be equipped with bureaus specifically tasked to deal with disaster prevention and mitigation, preparedness, and humanitarian and disaster responses.

The applicable powers, funds and appropriations of existing government agencies from different departments will then be transferred to the DDR. 

These agencies include the Office of Civil Defense (DND), Climate Change Office, Geo-Hazard Assessment and Engineering Geology Section of the Mines and Geoscience Bureau (DENR), Health and Emergency Bureau (DOH), Disaster Response Assistance and Management Bureau (DSWD), and Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP). Meanwhile, PAGASA and PHIVOLCS will be attached agencies of the DDR. 

Cayetano is the author of the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act (Republic Act No. 10821), which ensures attention and assistance to children before, during, and after disasters. She also introduced gender provisions in RA 10121, including the promotion of breastfeeding, and the establishment of safe spaces for mothers and children in evacuation centers. #

The Philippines is the third country most vulnerable to disasters according to the World Risk Index report.
Extreme weather conditions and more frequent disasters caused by climate change require a unified and comprehensive response from the government.
In this file photo, then Deputy Speaker interacts with young evacuees at a disaster relief center in Navotas City. Joining her is Mayor John Rey Tiangco. (November, 2018)

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