House panel greenlights funding for disaster resilience dep’t bill

Under the bill, the DDR will be the national government agency primarily responsible for disaster preparedness, prevention, mitigation, response, recovery, and rehabilitation.

The House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee approved the funding provisions of the measure creating the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR), which is among the legislative priorities mentioned by President Rodrigo Duterte in his third State of the Nation Address (SONA).

The House Committee, chaired by Davao Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, passed the consolidated bill titled the “Department of Disaster Resilience Act.” The funding shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA).

According to Nograles, about P20.2 billion has been allocated for the national disaster resilience fund, while PHP6.5 billion has been appropriated for the quick response fund under the 2019 budget.

Under the bill, the DDR will be the national government agency primarily responsible for disaster preparedness, prevention, mitigation, response, recovery, and rehabilitation.

"The Department shall 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," the bill stated.

The present National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), which exercises coordination, integration, supervision, monitoring, and evaluation functions, will be replaced by the Department of Disaster Resilience Council, which shall solely be a policy-making and advisory body on disaster risk and vulnerability reduction; and management and climate change adaptation.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, one of the principal authors of the bill, said the creation of the advisory council shall promote a multidisciplinary approach to advance collaborative disaster management.

“It should be whole-of-government, whole of society, whole of nation approach to disaster because it is so pervasive, it is so intense, and in fact, it is so critical,” Salceda said. “We really need a multidisciplinary approach because that is already the best practice in the whole world in addressing the ever-increasing complexity and intensity of disaster,” he added.

The department shall ensure seamless synergy and coordination with stakeholders - including civil society organizations (CSOs), academe, and the private sector - in relation to disaster resilience programs and projects and the development and promotion of research, education, and training mechanisms with relevant stakeholders.

A multi-stakeholders convergence unit shall also be established to align the disaster resilience efforts of the private sector, CSOs, academe, and other stakeholders with the department, by assisting, coordinating or providing services that strengthen public-private cooperation and coordination in disaster resilience.

Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is also set to create a new committee in the House to tackle the disaster preparedness and resiliency of every district in the country. “In as much as the President is prioritizing the disaster management bill and usually there is a mirror committee in the House for all the departments being created, I have asked my colleagues in the majority, including these two ladies if they would agree to organizing a new committee for disaster management,” Arroyo said.

Meanwhile, a counterpart bill has been filed by Senator Grace Poe and is pending in the committee level.

Malacañang, on the other hand, through the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), has recently transmitted to both houses of Congress an executive version of a bill. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the PLLO submitted the bill creating the DDR after having been approved by President Duterte and his Cabinet.

In an endorsement letter, the PLLO said the bill seeks to fulfill Duterte's message in both his 2017 and 2018 SONAs, where he called for the establishment of a department that will have “full-time focus on natural hazards and climate change.”

The PLLO also suggested that the executive bill be used as the basic draft at the committee-level and plenary deliberations considering Duterte’s endorsement.