By Alexis Romero, July 27, 2022; Philippine Star

Manila, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed support for a bill creating a disaster resilience department hours after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated the province of Abra and other parts of Luzon.

Marcos said the country needs to enhance its capability to mitigate disasters because of the risks posed by climate change.

“I don’t like to say it but it seems that it will be more frequent. Not the earthquake, but the weather, especially the extreme weather… You have seen what happened to Europe, what happened to America. We might experience that, the intense heat,” the president said at a press briefing Wednesday.

“So these are the things that we have to be careful (of). We need more capability than we have now. We can handle typhoons well. We are capable of handling earthquakes. But the dangers that the effects of climate change present are different, that’s why we need a specialist agency,” he added.

Marcos cited the need to recognize that the Philippines is prone to disasters.

“Our planning for the future should include all the mitigation — all the science and the knowledge and the learnings on the mitigation of these kinds of disasters. Earthquakes are different… The real problem with earthquakes is we cannot predict them. At least when it comes to the typhoon, there is a warning,” said the president.

“So we just have to deal with it that way. And if we can make our — get that balance between cost and the mitigation requirements of our building code so that we are safe when the earthquake comes or when there is a strong typhoon, then that is what we will have to do.”

The bill establishing a separate agency for disaster resilience is not among the 19 priority measures enumerated by Marcos during his first state of the nation address (SONA).

The president, however, vowed to alleviate the Philippines’ vulnerability to climate change. He highlighted the importance of investment in science and technology to ensure accurate weather forecasts and on-time disaster alerts. He also gave assurance that the use of renewable energy is at the top of his climate agenda.

The bill creating the disaster resilience department, which aims to promote a more proactive approach to natural disasters, is one of the priority bills of former president Rodrigo Duterte.