Considering its geographical location, on the rim of the Pacific Ring of Fire and on the general path of typhoons from the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines is an absolute magnet of natural disasters ranging from severe weather, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In the past, the government has tried to marshal disaster response in concert with non-government, civil and private sectors via the National Disaster Coordinating Council, which became the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in 2010. But the ever-increasing scale of disasters the country is facing has spurred with Congress the need to create a full cabinet department.
CNN Philippines reports that the Philippine Congress has made it one of its top priorities to iron out the specifics in forming a new Department of Disaster Resilience, to better oversee national disaster preparedness and response. This comes in the wake of the growing crisis regarding the eruption of Taal Volcano, the after-effects of which has damaged communities and agricultural land, grounding commerce and livelihood to a halt with many people displaced from their homes. This Department is but one of at least three new cabinet departments that Congress is mulling over to create, each specializing in a particular problem prominent in the nation today.
On Sunday, January 19, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri noted the immediate need for a government agency that is scientific, quick, focused and well-equipped to face disasters. “The creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) will ensure a more efficient, coordinated, and complete system of disaster management–from risk assessment to emergency response right down to reintegration assistance and rehabilitation,” remarked Sen. Zubiri. This Monday, January 20, sees Congress resume sessions following the four-week Holiday break. The Upper House is currently sounding out the measure to form the DDR after the Lower House Committees on Government Reorganization and on Disaster Management cleared it.
Aside from the Department of Disaster Resilience, Congress is also looking into bills for creating two more Departments by law. One of these others is the Department of Filipinos Overseas (DFO) to take up the work of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). The third is the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to better work on the chronic water shortages in the country, especially Metro Manila. At the very least, the House could push for the creation of the DFO before March 13, when Congress adjourns again for Holy Week.
Image: Manila Bulletin