THE first year anniversary of the devastation brought by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) once again showed the need for the establishment of a single government agency that would solely focus on disaster mitigation and humanitarian emergency assistance in times of disasters.
Senate majority leader Alan Peter Cayetano said besides the efforts to rebuild areas ravaged by the super typhoon, the government should also work on some institutional changes in order to improve the government preparedness and response during emergency situations.
Disaster management, Cayetano noted, has four stages—preparation, mitigation, response and rehabilitation. To effectively perform these tasks, there should be a dedicated agency overseeing the stages.
Under the law, it is the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) that is in charge of all disaster related functions and is headed by the defense secretary.
The council has four vice-chairmen composed of the secretaries the Interior, Social Welfare, Science and Technology and Economic and Development. The NDRRMC also has 39 other members.
“Just imagine getting the inputs of 44 individuals aside from the orders that will be coming form the President and each of them also have their own agencies to manage,” Cayetano pointed out.
He then pushed for the establishment of an emergency response department that will be headed by a secretary whose sole purpose is to focus on risk education and mitigation, disaster preparedness and other related duties.
Under Cayetano’s Senate Bill No. 1940 which was filed in November 2013, the lawmaker wants the creation of an “Emergency Response Department” (ERD) that will be headed by a person with a Cabinet rank.
With the establishment of the ERD, Cayetano said, disaster management would be streamlined and responsive, having only one person in charge, and would be completely focused on disaster preparedness “24 hours a day and 365 days a year.”
“Such specialized department shall stubbornly bear laser-like preciseness in focus, give primacy to pre-disaster resilience-building, and prioritize life preservation and basic subsistence needs in the communities affected by a disaster,” he explained.