Sotto sees creation of disaster dep’t soon

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    SENATE President Vicente Sotto III yesterday said he sees the creation of the Department for Disaster Resilience before Congress goes on a break for the Christmas holidays due to the exigency of having unity of command in times of disasters.

    In an interview with radio dzMM, Sotto said the creation of the department will organize efforts in disaster response by institutionalizing the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

    He said with the department, it will be clear who is in charge as the responsibility will be in four levels – “from the municipal, the mayor, the city mayor, up to the secretary of disaster resilience.”

    He said he sees the speedy approval of the department’s creation because at least eight senators, including the Senate President, have filed similar bills.

    “A very big chance, talagang kailangang-kailangan. Malaki ang posibilidad, at malaki rin ang posibilidad na ma-pirmahan ng Presidente ito

    (There is a very big chance we will pass it because of the urgency. There is also a big chance that the President will sign it),” he added.

    Senate majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said President Duterte ordered to expedition of the creation of the department.

    “This is a priority measure of the administration so definitely i-try natin isingit ang (we can try to insert this in the) debates during the budget lull,” he said.

    Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the Senate should conduct its own post-earthquake assessment to find out if the calamity fund for this year’s budget and the one for 2020 “is enough to help the people and places hit by the recent tremors in Mindanao.

    This year’s calamity fund, which is officially the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management fund, is P25.1 billion, consisting of P20 billion in new appropriations and P5.1 billion left over from the 2018 national budget.

    Recto said for next year, the proposed appropriations is P20 billion, of which P3.5 billion is for the rehabilitation of Marawi City, the same amount allotted for this year.

    “What is needed now is fact-based, ground-validated damage assessment checked against available and proposed appropriations. If funding does not match the needs, then Congress has no choice but to augment it,” Recto said.

    “I propose that whatever amount Congress and the Executive will earmark for rehabilitation and reconstruction be clearly tagged as such to create a firewall that will prevent it from being used for other purposes. It can be called Comprehensive Aid to Repair earthquake Damage of CARED,” he added.