By Maricel Cruz, September 19 2018; Manila Standard

Image Credit to Manila Standard

Leyte Rep. Yedda Marie K. Romualdez on Wednesday lauded her colleagues on the approval on second reading of the  proposed Department of Disaster Resilience which aims to spare the lives of many Filipinos and save properties from future disasters.

Romualdez, one of DDR’s principal authors who represents Tacloban City otherwise known as Ground Zero during the onslaught of Super Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ on Nov. 8, 2013, said the bill’s enactment drastically reduce the country’s vulnerability to natural hazards with the impending passage into law of DDR.

“We can now look forward to the future with hope, knowing that the government is ready, better equipped and committed to exert its best effort to reduce the risks that come with natural disasters, to empower local communities to rise above the different vulnerabilities that surround them and to ensure that in the years to come, such a tragedy will never happen again,” Romualdez, chairman of the House committee on accounts, said.

The House, through viva voce voting, approved on second reading House Bill 8165, creating the Department of Disaster Resilience, which shall be the primary government agency responsible for leading, organizing and managing the national effort to reduce disaster risk, and prepare for and respond to disasters, recover and rehabilitate.

The bill also provides that the DDR shall oversee and coordinate the preparation, implementation, monitoring, evaluation of disaster and climate resilience plans, programs, and activities.

The DDR shall also provide leadership in the continuous development of strategic and systematic approaches to disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery, and rehabilitation, and anticipatory adaptation strategies, measures, techniques and options.

It shall also augment the capacity of local government units in collaboration with relevant national agencies and other stakeholders to implement disaster risk reduction and management and climate change action plans, programs, projects and activities.

She thanked her colleagues for prioritizing the passage of DDR bill, one of the priority measures of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“From the bottom of my heart, I thank my colleagues for passing the proposed Department of Disaster Resilience on second reading. Salamat sa malasakit,” said Romualdez.

She said Yolanda “is an unspeakable tragedy that we do not want to happen again.”

Romualdez is the wife of Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) President Martin Romualdez, the original proponent of the bill during the previous 16th Congress where he served House Independent Bloc leader as congressman of Leyte.

HB 8165 declares it is the duty of the State to carry out and harmonize the policies on disaster risk and vulnerability reduction and management, and climate change adaptation, and sustainable development to uphold the welfare of the people particularly the vulnerable sectors of society.

The DDR shall be composed of the following: 1) Secretary to be appointed by the President; 2) five Undersecretaries. Each of the four Undersecretaries shall be responsible for resilience, policy and governance, operations, administration and finance, respectively, while the fifth one shall be the Senior Undersecretary; 3) 10 Assistant Secretaries; 4) 11 Service Directors who shall head the following services: administrative and financial management, logistics and resource management, operations, responders management, policy development and planning, capacity-development and training, legal affairs and compliance, disaster risk reduction, climate change, rehabilitation and recovery management, and strategic communications; 5) divisions, units and offices; 6) The National Climate and Disaster Resilience, Research, Education, and Training Institute ; 7) regional and other offices; 8) bureaus; 9) seconded personnel from relevant agencies; and 10) grievance desks in every region.

The DDR shall also have the power to receive donations and grants from any person, government institution, corporation, international organization, and other similar entities, and the power to recommend the procurement of developmental assistance for the purpose of disaster risk and vulnerability reduction and management, and climate change adaptation.

It shall be mandatory for the department to acknowledge and certify the receipt of all DDR grants and donated funds and ensure their judicious management, including their proper and accurate audit reporting to constituents.

The bill also provides for the creation of the National Disaster Resilience Council (NDRC) which shall be the policy advisory to the DDR on disaster risk reduction and management, and climate change adaptation. It shall be headed by the Secretary of Disaster Resilience and composed of the heads of the different government agencies.

The Council shall be organized into five clusters namely, Disaster Prevention and Management to be led by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST); Disaster Preparedness to be led by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG); Disaster response to be led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD); Logistics to be led by the Department of National Defense (DND); and Recovery and Sustainable Development to be led by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

The DDR shall also issue comprehensive guidelines on the initiation, entry, facilitation, transit and regulation of international relief goods and personnel, as well as eligibility guidelines to utilize the legal facilities for assisting international actors.

The bill also provides for penalties for prohibited acts of public officials, and private persons or institutions.The amount needed for the initial implementation of the Act shall be taken from the current fiscal year’s unexpended appropriation of all agencies absorbed, transferred, and attached to the DDR. Thereafter, the amount needed for the operation and maintenance of the DDR shall be included in the General Appropriations Act.