Palace insists no law on handling disasters ignored

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Malacañang claimed on Wednesday that the Aquino government did not ignore any laws that addressed their responsibilities in disaster settings.

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In his column, former ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao said that certain provisions of the law creating the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) were not followed by the Aquino government.

Tiglao emphasized that President Benigno Aquino 3rd failed to implement Republic Act 10121, or the National Disaster and Risk Management System law, which underscored that it is the Department of National Defense’s Office of Civil Defense that has the responsibility of preparing for and responding to major disasters, and not, as President Aquino insists, local governments that do not have the expertise for doing so.

Under the law, he noted that the OCD was clearly the agency in charge of planning for and dealing with disasters anywhere in the country, with the NDRRMC and its counterparts in the local levels as consultative bodies to ensure the coordination of efforts of the various government agencies.

Tiglao also said that the law ordered that the OCD be allocated immediately when it took effect a P1-billion revolving fund.

However, he noted the Aquino regime with its tight control of Congress did not provide the OCD such a P1-billion fund, and instead merely maintained the level of operations budget—about P100 million—it had been receiving before the law was enacted.

“The fact that no fund was allocated to the OCD as the law ordered was however concealed by the Aquino administration’s new procedure of including as part of the agency’s budget its share out of the Calamity Funds, termed as its Quick Response Fund (QRF). These QRF allocations though were even smaller than those the Department of Social Welfare and Development received. The office of the secretary of national defense was even allocated its own QRFs, amounting to P353 million annually for 2012 and 2013,” Tiglao pointed out.

Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda, however, insisted that the national government’s disaster risk management has a “system” in addressing disasters.

“We have a system where the NDRRMC system—where it has been delegated down to the . . . sWhere all levels of governance are provided a disaster risk reduction management council,” Lacierda said.

“You’ve got the national, you’ve got the provincial, you’ve got the city, you’ve got the municipality, so that’s where it comes,” he added

The Palace official also claimed that the local governments are in charge of disaster response, saying that they were “first responders” on the ground.

“Our doctrine of first response always comes from the local government, primarily because they know the nook and cranny of every town, every city, every barangay,” Lacierda said
Asked about giving OCD its P1-billion budget for mitigation or preparation, Lacierda said, “We will clarify it with Budget Secretary Butch Abad on that point.”

Catherine S. Valente

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