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Department of Disaster Resilience

By Johnny Dayang

Continuing weather disturbance have induced both strong winds and heavy rains that flooded and devastated many provinces. There is of course nothing new about this and the fact that we seem helpless in dealing with such natural calamities.

This sense of helplessness, however, may be addressed soon by President Duterte call in his SONA last Monday where he urged Congress to create a cabinet level disaster management agency that will help Filipinos cope with extreme weather conditions that regularly devastate and inflict misery among Filipinos.

The President’s call was based on House Bill 6075 filed by Albay Rep. Joey Salceda in Congress which seeks the creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) that will be tasked to develop, manage and oversee a broad climate-disaster governance program to address disasters and help ensure the country’s sustained and inclusive economic growth.

President Duterte approved Salceda’s proposal during a recent Cabinet meeting, and included it in his 2018 SONA. Congress designated him to head the technical working group tasked to consolidate with his bill 43 other related proposals and finalize the draft measure for House plenary consideration.

As Salceda noted, an effective disaster agency is “essential to a sensible economic blueprint and since disastrous typhoons have progressively grown stronger and more disastrous in recent years.” The proposed DDR will be “tasked to carry out a continuous, consistent and fortified calamity defense program and ensure the country’s sustainable development and inclusive growth.”

Our Philippine situation is particularly critical because we rank third among 171 countries considered as “most exposed and vulnerable to natural calamities,” and 13th in the Climate Change Vulnerability Index. Additionally, 74% of our population and 80% of our land area have been identified as vulnerable to disasters with Manila marked as “in extreme risk.”

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), established in 2010 under RA 10121, currently leads the country’s disaster management initiatives. Doubts have been raised about its efficacy, however, in the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, which claimed thousands of lives and ruined assets worth billions of pesos.

DDR will replace DRRMC and will take under it the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) now under DOST; the DENR’s Geoscience Bureau, and DILG’s Bureau of Fire Protection.