DELAYS in the rehabilitation of areas devastated by typhoons and other disasters can be avoided if there is a single agency that will be in charge of disaster preparedness, response, relief and rehabilitation, Senator Francis Escudero said Sunday.
Escudero said the next administration should prioritize the creation of such a government agency to be headed by a Cabinet level official who can attend to all disaster-related needs full time.
The senator echoed the proposal of Senator Grace Poe, who filed a resolution in 2013 calling for the creation of a department that will focus on disaster risk reduction and management, separate from the Department of National Defense (DND).
Poe said the new department will be responsible for the establishment of a centralized response system that will attend to all kinds of disaster-related emergencies such as earthquakes, typhoons, flashfloods and landslides.
At present, it is the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) that is in charge of disaster concerns, but it is chaired by the Secretary of National Defense who is also handling security and military concerns.
Escudero said there should be a dedicated agency to handle disaster preparedness, response, relief and rehabilitation because the Philippines is a disaster-prone country.
“Let’s learn from the painful lessons of Yolanda. There have been issues with regard to the pace of rehabilitation and the mobilization of available financial resources for the victims of Yolanda. It’s been two years since it hit us, and much remains to be done,” the senator lamented.
He added that despite enormous funds allocated by Congress and given by private foreign and local donors, the housing requirements of typhoon survivors have yet to be fully addressed.
Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel Roxas 2nd, who was in Tacloban when Yolanda battered the Visayas, has rejected Poe’s proposal, saying the “present set up of the government’s disaster preparedness and response has been effective in handling disasters.”
“But we’re talking about 7,000 plus islands here, and typhoons that are getting stronger with each passing year. We need someone who will focus 24/7 on preparing our people for natural calamities, managing the response when they strike, and then taking care of the people suffering in their wake,” Escudero said.
He said the funds poured for the typhoon victims could have been better used if there is a single agency to lead and manage the mobilization of disaster mitigation, relief and rehabilitation funds.