Pangilinan backs proposed Taal Commission

MANILA – Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Tuesday expressed his support for the establishment of a Taal Commission — a body that would solely focus on aiding, rehabilitating, and rebuilding communities affected by the ongoing eruption of Taal Volcano.

“We should immediately shift our focus to providing the needs of those affected by the ongoing eruption. We’re not going in this blindly. Alam na natin ito. There have already been several lessons learned from the 1991 Pinatubo eruption. It worked then, it should work now. We just need to adapt it to respond to the current situation,” Pangilinan said.

A P50-billion appropriation would be needed to fund the commission, as filed by Senator Ralph Recto on Monday, January 20. Citing NDRRMC figures, over half a million people have already been affected.

“This is our reality: the Philippines has always been a disaster-prone country. What we need to do is ensure that we are faster in our response, and are quicker to make decisions relevant to the situation. We believe that having a Taal Commission would ensure more cohesive rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts that include not only government and multi-sectoral participation, allowing the people and community to take part,” Pangilinan said.

The senator earlier stressed the importance of a multi-sectoral approach in providing for the needs of the Taal victims. He called on various government agencies to extend assistance, particularly the Department of Social Work and Development and the Department of Labor and Employment to relaunch a cash-for-work program; educational assistance from the Commission on Higher Education; emergency leaves as approved by the Civil Service Commission; food and nutrition assistance, and psycho-social trauma management workshops from the Department of health; and temporary shelter and housing from the housing agencies and the Department of Public Works and Highways; among many others.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck situation. Not only the government and the private sector should be involved in the efforts. We also need to treat those affected by the eruption not simply as evacuees and recipients of donation but as active participants in the rebuilding efforts. We need to empower them so that they are able to take part in rebuilding their own lives once given proper assistance,” Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan also called on the government to provide alternative livelihood and funding assistance for farmers and fisherfolk affected by the Taal eruption.