Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday said now is the best time to prioritize the establishment of the Department of Disaster Resilience, saying this is “an idea whose time has come.”
“I think it is a good idea, an idea whose time has come, and I think it will really save lives,” Cayetano said in a media interview on July 27, 2022 after giving a manifestation on the Senate floor about the need for an emergency response department.
The senator pointed out that even President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has voiced his interest in establishing a Department of Disaster Resilience.
He added that his colleagues in the Senate must seize this momentum by recommending that all related legislation on the matter be certified by the President as urgent.
“Since nabanggit na ng pangulo kanina na siya ay pabor, dapat siguro bilisan at unahin natin ito,” Cayetano said.
“Ang problema, after (Supertyphoon) Yolanda, lahat tayo gustong matupad na ito, every time that there’s a big disaster, gusto natin, and then eventually nakakalimutan,” he said.
In his manifestation on the Senate floor, Cayetano urged his colleagues to ask President Marcos to certify as urgent all proposed bills related to the establishment of an emergency response department, the same day a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit northern Luzon, leaving at least five people dead.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Majority Leader Senator Joel Villanueva expressed support for Cayetano’s request for certification from Malacañang.
Cayetano told reporters he will send a letter to the president making the request for certification, adding that the sooner the bills are taken up, the more time lawmakers will have to streamline and unite all proposals for an emergency response department.
“Bale ang hihilingin ko sa Pangulo na i-urgent ay lahat ng bills na similar, para ma-consider sila together,” he said.
Simple is key
Cayetano maintained that his main objective for filing Senate Bill No. 66, or the Emergency Response Department Act, is to simplify the country’s approach to disaster response.
“Personally, yung bill ko sinimplify namin, Emergency Response Department, pero ang consensus ay more on a Disaster Prevention and Resiliency Department. So sa akin, kung ano man ang mga compromise, basta matuloy, basta meron tayong single department na accountable,” he said.
There are currently four separate proposed bills in the Senate seeking to form an emergency response department: one each from Senators Alan and Pia Cayetano, one from Senator Christopher Lawrence Go, and one from Senate President Zubiri.
Cayetano pointed out that the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) although “filled with very committed, dedicated people,” coordinates more than 40 government agencies on an ad hoc or per-disaster basis; this, he said, severely hampers the coordinating body’s ability to plan ahead for future disasters, or sustain rehabilitation efforts after each calamity.
“Why don’t we make it simple for people, and how do we make it simple? Instead of 44 separate agencies that coordinate ad hoc, let’s have a single department that is in charge of disaster response. So i-simplify talaga,” he said.