Don’t forget Odette victims, say minority senators seeking assessment of govt response

January 20, 2022

AS hardship lingers in areas devastated by Typhoon Odette one month after it struck, senators from the minority bloc want an assessment of the damages brought by the calamity, as well as the government’s rehabilitation and recovery efforts.

“Marami pa ring pamilya ang walang bubong na masisilungan, walang kuryente, kapos sa pagkain at maiinom na tubig. Huwag nating kalimutan ang mabigat na mga gawain para makabangon muli ang mga nasalanta ng Odette (Many families remain without a decent roof over their heads, groping in the dark, with scarce food and clean water. We must not forget that heavy task lies ahead to help Odette victims rise),” said Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, one of the authors of Proposed Senate Resolution 976.

“Hindi pa tapos ang paghihirap ng ating mga kababayang nasalanta ng bagyong Odette matapos ang isang buwan. ‘Wag natin silang isantabi at kalimutan,” he added.

The measure seeks to “conduct a full inventory of damages, conduct a thorough evaluation of government response including gaps and structural inefficiencies, and identify the needs for rehabilitation, recovery, and reconstruction, including the corresponding budgetary and policy requirements.”

Aside from Pangilinan, the authors are Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Risa Hontiveros and Leila de Lima.

“This assessment of government response and relief efforts should be done with the end in view of protecting our people and improving our existing National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework. Congress, through relevant legislations, must establish mechanisms to improve the overall disaster management, mitigation, and response efforts of government,” they said in the resolution.

The senators stressed the importance of seeing to it that budget allocated for Odette recovery plan is spent accordingly to improve the country’s disaster risk reduction management.

The Philippines is visited by at least 20 tropical cyclones annually with varying strength and level of destruction. The past typhoons, including Odette, should serve as a learning experience for the government to improve its disaster response, the authors added.

“These [typhoons] have catastrophic economic, environmental, and social impacts. Typhoon Odette and previous natural disasters have revealed the vulnerabilities and problems in the present framework, in government policies, as well as public spending for disaster response. Government must address these to be prepared for future shocks and disasters,” they said.

After Typhoon Odette ravaged parts of Visayas and Mindanao, the national government immediately allocated P10 billion for rehabilitation purposes of the affected areas, according to the lawmakers.

Of the aforementioned budget, P2 billion will come from the 2021 National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund (NDRRMF), P2 billion from the President’s Contingency Fund, while the remaining P6 billion will be sourced from the recently signed 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

But for the minority bloc, the funds are not enough to rehabilitate the affected areas as the reported destruction in agriculture and infrastructure alone is at P24.586 billion.

Pangilinan also highlighted the need to ensure that donations go to the intended beneficiaries and are properly accounted for.