Salceda calls anew for passage of Department of Disaster Resilience Act

Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda has once more called on the Senate  for the passage of the Department of Disaster Resilience (DRR) Act, in the aftermath of Typhoon Odette that struck Central Vizayas and Northern Mindanao on Thursday, areas that were rather unfamiliar with tropical cyclones.

Salceda, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and author of the DDR Act, said Odette’s trail shows that not one area in the country could be safe from weather disturbances. The climate has changed and the country’s “strategies for dealing with disasters must change too,” he added.

The House passed the DDR Act (HB 5989) on third and final reading last September 21, 2020 with an overwhelming 241 votes.

It is deemed as the country’s coherent blueprint for survival against natural calamities and even pandemics, certified urgent by President Duterte many times.

The measure now awaits deliberations in the Senate. A similar measure, also crafted by Salceda, was already approved in 2017 by the Lower House but was stalled in the Senate and overtaken by the 2018 elections.

Salceda said the DDR measure best answers the country’s long quest for a well prepared and well-coordinated response to disasters that should mitigate the dangers they pose, and minimize human sufferings and miseries.

With the path of destruction Odette took, it only shows us that “nowhere in the Philippines can now be considered safe from natural disasters with climate change. This emphasizes the fact that no area in the country is typhoon-proof any more. The climate has changed. Our strategies for dealing with disasters must change too,” Salceda stressed.

As of Saturday morning, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center reported about 12 casualties, 41,400 typhoon victims with evacuees numbering to 338,664, and about P24 billion in damages.

“Northern Mindanao and Central Visayas aren’t areas used to typhoons. Bicol and the Waray region are. As a result, they are structurally and culturally not as used to typhoon preparations as Bicol and Eastern Visayas are,” he noted.

Salceda pointed out that while the national government gives support, disaster strategies are extremely local and the inter-local mechanisms that only a national cabinet agency can muster are not yet there.

“Our Disaster risk reduction and management councils are locally segmented. The problem is disasters do not respect LGU boundaries. You really need a national agency. Regions that are also not yet culturally and structurally prepared for disasters can quickly catch up with an institutionalized national framework. That way, they do not have to face a steep learning curve,” he explained.

Salceda said the DDR will be the primary agency “responsible, accountable, and liable for leading, managing, and organizing national efforts to address and mitigate disaster risks; prepare for and respond to disasters; and recover, rehabilitate and build forward better after the destruction.”

He earlier expressed confidence the DDR bill will be finally enacted since it is authored by Senator Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong’ Go in the upper chamber, who himself introduced innovations into the bill.

Many institutions and groups have earlier joined the mounting calls for the Senate to speed up the enactment of the DDR Act, including  the University of the Philippines Resilience Institute (UPRI), Greenpeace Philippines, and the Local Climate Change Adaptation for Development (LCCAD).

These institutions have stressed the need for the government to implement urgent policy actions to address the disaster and climate emergency in the Philippines.