Pangilinan seeks to establish Department of Disaster and Emergency Management, at least P20-billion calamity fund

Disaster-prone Philippines needs a disaster-buster: Kiko

MANILA — The Philippines ranks third as the most disaster-prone country in the world, regularly suffering from typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions, not to mention the occasional drought, epidemic, El Niño, and La Niña, as well as the staple flooding. Yet our country does not have a point person for disasters.

To address this situation, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan has filed Senate Bill 39 which establishes the Department of Disaster and Emergency Management and a calamity fund of P20 billion or at least 1% of the estimated government revenue or whichever is higher.

“Ito lang nakaraang mga araw, sunod-sunod ang mga kalamidad. Noong July 27, nilindol ang Batanes; lima ang patay at giba ang mga lumang bahay at simbahan. At itong papaalis na bagyong Hanna ay nagdala ng ulan at nagdulot ng flashfloods at landslides. Mahigit dalawampu sa ating mga kababayan ang namatay sa pagtaob ng tatlong bangka sa Iloilo (These past several days alone, we experienced a series of calamities. On July 27, Batanes suffered an earthquake that killed five and destroyed heritage houses and churches. And this departing tropical storm Hanna brought rains and caused flashfloods and landslides. More than twenty of our countrymen died when three boats capsized in Iloilo),” Pangilinan said.

“But while we have a National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), composed of several interacting agencies sharing the responsibility for disaster risk reduction and management and overseeing the national system, no one is overall in charge. We want disaster-prone Philippines to have a disaster-buster,” he said, adding that Senator JV Ejercito filed a similar bill in the 17th Congress.

In the explanatory note of the bill, Pangilinan noted that since 1990, the Philippines has sustained 565 natural disasters that have left almost 70,000 dead and an estimated $23 billion in damages. Among the deadliest and costliest were the super-typhoon Yolanda of 2013, the Luzon earthquake of 1990, and the Pinatubo eruption of 1991.

“More than half of the country’s total land area is exposed to multiple hazards and 74% of the population is vulnerable to their impact. And with the climate crisis, we should expect that number to go higher,” he said.

The new department will be mandated to focus on and integrate disaster risk reduction and management and climate change adaptation.

Aside from taking over the responsibilities of the NDRRMC, the new department shall also assume the powers and functions of the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD).

Among its mandates are:

  • Review the National Building Code and Fire Code
  • Develop, update, and maintain a national geographic information system
  • Develop national, regional, and local disaster protocols and contingency plans
  • Develop and implement community-based and scientific hazard assessment and mapping
  • Draft a manual of operations for volunteers
  • Manage donations
  • Identify, establish, and maintain evacuation centers

The proposed law seeks to promote a “strategic, comprehensive, and integrated approach” to disaster risk reduction and management because “gusto nating may laban naman tayo sa mga ganitong kalamidad at sakuna (we want to substantially reduce our vulnerabilities to disasters and other emergencies),” Pangilinan said.