Bill on creation of department for disaster management ready for refiling in House

EMERGENCY responders — including firefighters, police, military, and local government teams — at a site of a collapsed building in La Trinidad, Benguet following the magnitude 7 earthquake that struck northwestern Luzon on July 27. — BUREAU OF FIRE PROTECTION

A BILL that will create a new department focusing on disaster management is ready for refiling in the House of Representatives while another related measure has already been submitted, according to lawmakers.  

Ang Probinsyano Party-list Rep. Alfred C. Delos Santos said in a news release on Thursday that the July 27 earthquake that hit the northwestern part of the main island of Luzon should be the last reminder to Congress on the urgent need of creating a Department of Disaster Resilience.   

“I was a co-author of the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) bill during the 18th Congress. It was approved on third and final reading; so, I add my voice in agreement to the fast-track approach to bills that the House previously approved on third and final reading,” he said.  

A DDR bill was approved by the House in the previous Congress but its counterpart measure did not hurdle the Senate as several legislators questioned its practicality and the funding required to set up another department.    

Emergency preparedness and response programs are currently under the multi-agency National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), which is led by the Department of National Defense.  

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Wednesday said he will push Congress to prioritize the establishment of a DDR.  

Mr. Delos Santos said he has filed House Bill 1923, otherwise known as Laging Handa bill, which seeks to integrate basic medical training and disaster awareness or response in all institutions of learning. 

BHW Party-list Rep. Angelica Natasha Co said other bills relating to disaster resilience are ready to be filed.  

“In times of disasters and more so before disasters strike, we need the proposed Medical Reserve Corps, Philippine Center for Disease Prevention and Control, and fully-functioning State Universities and Colleges Mental Health Services,” said Ms. Co. 

AIDMeanwhile, House Speaker Ferdinand Martin R. Romualdez said in a separate statement that the lower chamber will support the allocation of funds in the national budget for the rehabilitation and restoration of public infrastructure in affected provinces.   

The newly-formed Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) also announced on Thursday that it has allocated P20 million to assist families of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by the earthquake.

“This is just an initial allotment to help OFW families affected by the earthquake. I have directed the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to immediately provide help and find out what other forms of assistance the DMW can provide,” DMW Secretary Susan V. Ople said in a statement. 

Ms. Ople added that the department will wait for the damage assessment report of the NDRRMC to determine the areas most affected by the tremor.

She has also asked the state-run Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG to open an emergency loan window for affected OFW families. — Matthew Carl L. Montecillo and John Victor D. Ordoñez