PRESIDENTIAL Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (PARR) Panfilo Lacson on Thursday said he may leave the Cabinet early next year when he shall have relinquished his functions to a permanent disaster mitigation agency.
“I will slowly fade away from the scene once the transition period starts. The functions and duties of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) will be subsumed under the umbrella organization of the NDRRMC. In short and simple language, I am effectively resigned as PARR at the start of the transition. NDRRMC will absorb lock, stock and barrel all the assets, personnel and material including the still not utilized grants from USAID and UNDP,” Lacson told The Manila Times.
A statement released by Lacson’s office said the former senator is preparing for the smooth transfer of his office’s mandate to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
“Under the present laws, the [NDRRMC] addresses only the three phases in the face of a disaster—prevention and mitigation, preparedness and response. I believe the powers and functions of the NDRRMC can be expanded to include the fourth and crucial phase which is rehabilitation and recovery,” Lacson said.
Once he has surrendered his “functions,” the rehabilitation czar will leave his job unless President Benigno Aquino 3rd appoints him to another agency.
In December 2013, or barely a month after Super Typhoon Yolanda struck, Aquino appointed Lacson as Presidential Assistant to oversee reconstruction of areas heavily-affected by the disaster.
He was asked to submit to the President the Yolanda Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan (CRRP), which contained some 18,000 projects, programs and activities for the rehabilitation of the 175 cities and municipalities that suffered massive damage in the aftermath of the typhoon. He did so in eight months.
The plan, which entails a total budget of about P167 billion, was approved by the President on October 29 this year.
In explaining his plan to give up his job, Lacson said he got enlightened after Typhoon Ruby ravaged the same areas hit by Yolanda.
“After Typhoon Ruby, some people asked if PARR would also extend its rehabilitation efforts to those newly affected Ruby-hit areas. One of the advantages of PARR is that it had the function of being the overall coordinator for all rehabilitation efforts, but PARR’s mandate only covers Yolanda-affected areas,” he added.
“It dawned on me that a permanent agency should be equipped to handle all functions related to preparedness, recovery and rehabilitation since we are a typhoon-prone country,” Lacson said.
According to the former senator, the proposed transition will also coincide with the “sunset provision” of Republic Act 10121 or the Philippine Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Act of 2010 mandated within five years after the law was passed in May 2010.
The sunset provision requires the Congressional Oversight Committee to review accomplishments and impact of the NDRRMC law, as well as performance and organizational structure of its implementing agencies for purposes of determining remedial legislation.
“This is the perfect time to institute changes in the law via the review and recommendations of the joint congressional oversight committee,” Lacson noted.
He said part of the transition plan is to institutionalize the experience and lessons learned during and after Super Typhoon Yolanda and to create an efficient system in government handling the rehabilitation efforts arising from future disasters.
“Having OPARR transition its accomplishments and best practices to the relevant government agencies by 2015 during the review period will also aid Congress in identifying the required remedial legislation to make the Philippines’ response and recovery from disasters faster and more efficient,” the former lawmaker pointed out.
Lacson said the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), which previously handled the rehabilitation and recovery phase after every disaster, is swamped considering that at least 20 storms and typhoons hit the country every year.
“We’ve seen from our country’s experience that there is a lack of institutional capability for recovery and rehabilitation as shown by the creation of ad hoc bodies or task forces in response to big calamities like Typhoon Ondoy, Typhoon Pablo and the Bohol earthquake,” he explained.
Since the Philippines was recently ranked as the second most disaster-risk prone country in the world, Lacson said the government can institutionalize the lessons learned from Yolanda and have that in a permanent government agency.
“OPARR can pass on its best practices like mechanisms to engage private sector aid, or transparency tools for monitoring like eMPATHY. OPARR aims to start that transition as soon as possible so that the whole country, not just the Yolanda-hit areas, can be better prepared when the next calamity strikes,” he added.
Last month, Lacson described the environment at OPARR as a “sure formula for failure” but maintained that efforts are “on track” “to raise the quality of life beyond the pre-Yolanda status quo.”
The CRRP applies the overarching principle of Building Back Better and Safer. Building Back Better calls for holistic, viable interventions that include building resilient infrastructure; exploring sustainable industries/SMEs and typhoon-resilient crops/cash crops; developing typhoon-resilient communities/resettlement sites; and strengthening social protection mechanisms in affected areas.