‘Creation of disaster dep’t may bloat bureaucracy’

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    SEN. Panfilo Lacson yesterday said a proposal to create a Department of Disaster Resilience runs counter to the policy direction of President Duterte to rightsize the bureaucracy.

    But Senate majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the creation of the DDR will rightsize the bureaucracy as it will unite all agencies dealing with disaster and calamity response under one roof.

    Lacson recalled that the President, in the state of the nation address (SONA), stressed the need for Congress to pass legislation to rightsize the national government, while in the 2019 SONA, the President urged Congress to pass the “government rightsizing bill.”

    “Now, this puts us in a dilemma. As a matter of policy direction, do we create another department that will further bloat an already bloated bureaucracy, or simply make do with a council called NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) that has no focus and responsibility to address natural and man-made calamities that have become permanent and frequent in a country such as ours?” Lacson said in his opening statement at the joint committee hearing on the proposal to create the department.

    He said RA 10121, or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, was passed to help government prepare and act accordingly in times of disasters but government agencies seem to not perform well as reported by the Commission on Audit in a report in 2015.

    The report said: “The government’s response and recovery efforts in Yolanda-ravaged areas already showed that the implementation of RA 10121 still leaves a lot to be desired. The recorded below par performance was primarily attributed to the multi-sectoral, multi-organizational structure of the NDRRMC.”

    Zubiri said the proposed department will take the powers and functions of the Office of Civil Defense, the Climate Change Commission, the Geo-Hazard Assessment, and Engineering Geology section of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the Health Emergency Management Bureau of the health department, the Disaster Response and Assistance ad Management of the social welfare department, the Bureau of Fire Protection, and the Program Management Office for Earthquake Resiliency of Greater Metro Manila area.

    “The creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience will ensure a more efficient, coordinated, and complete system of disaster management — from risk assessment to emergency response right down to reintegration assistance and rehabilitation,” Zubiri said.

    To complement the goal of the DDR, Zubiri also brought up the need to pass the National Hazard Mapping Act, a bill he filed in July 2019.

    “Having a national hazard map will allow us to identify areas of high risk, helping us pinpoint possibilities of occurrence, magnitude, and location of potential earthquakes, volcanic activity, and other natural hazards,” he said.