TACLOBAN City — Mayor Alfred Romualdez on Sunday here strongly urged Congress to pass a law that would create a new government department tasked to exclusively address all concerns regarding natural and man-made calamities to avoid politics and red tape.
Romualdez said a single department tasked to respond onvarious calamities which are threatening the lives of millions of Filipinos should be given highest priority by Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. and Senate President Franklin Drilon.
“We need a department that would solely focus on natural disasters because the NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) which is chaired by the secretary of the DND (Department of National Defense) is already obsolete. If there is an ongoing war in Mindanao, how can he focus on addressing disasters? To avoid politics and save lives, we have to be efficient. Doing so will eliminate bad politics. There is good politics and we should start now,” Romualdez told reporters at the sidelines of sky lantern launching on the first anniversary of Yolanda tragedy.
He explained that such proposal would help expedite thedelivery of aid and assistance to the victims and implement the rehabilitation and rebuilding immediately.
“Following the onslaught of Yolanda which resulted inimmeasurable devastation that flattened Tacloban City and nearby provinces, it is very important for Congress to pass a law that would establish and create a new department whose sole duty is to respond and help victims of different natural and man-made calamities and disasters,” Romualdez explained, adding the country has been visited by so many destructive disasters in the past years.
The mayor backed the proposal of the House independent bloc led by his first cousin, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez which seeks to create the Department of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (DDPEM) to adequately address different natural and man-made calamities.
Under House Bill 3486, the proposal would replace NDRRMC aimed at effectively and exclusively handle all calamity-related operations following the wide devastation of super typhoon Yolanda.
Unlike the NDRRMC which is chaired by Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin, the DDPEM will be a full blown department to be headed by a secretary.
“The current set-up has proven to be inadequate in preparing our country from major calamities which we will have to face on a yearly basis. This new Department will drastically reduce, if not totally eliminate, the bureaucratic red tape which has caused many delays inthe delivery of immediate assistance needed by the victims,” Rep. Romualdez said.
“Notwithstanding all the disaster preparation and coordination plans, there were still significant losses of life, injury, and damage to property when Typhoon Yolanda (International Code Name: Haiyan), considered as the world’s strongest typhoon ever recorded, hit Philippine Territory,” the group said.
“Despite the government’s efforts and preparations, thousands of people perished. Damage to business, property and agriculture were in such magnitude that economic activities were placed on standstill. A few days after typhoon Yolanda ravaged the Visayas region, thenational government was criticized and blamed by international media for the slow response and lack of support to the victims in the affected areas,” they added.
Other authors of the bill include Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado-Revilla, Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado Arroyo, Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, Abakada Party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, La Union Rep. Victor Ortega, Surigao del Sur Rep. Philip Pichay, Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Quezon Rep. Aleta Suarez.
With its creation, the existing agency such as the NDRRMC, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and other offices related to are hereby abolished and the powers, functions, all applicable funds and appropriations, records, assets, and properties of the abolished agencies are hereby transferred or absorbed by the department.
Under the measure, employees separated from the service as a result of the abolition of the identified agencies and offices shall, within six months from the separation from the service, receive the separation benefits to which they are entitled under existing laws and regulations, provided, that in hiring applicants to the newly-created department, priority shall be given to existing employees to beaffected by the reorganization.
To carry out the provisions of the proposed law, theappropriations for the current fiscal year as well as the existing funds, assets, and resources of the transferred and abolished offices to be identified in Section 8 hereof shall be transferred to the department.
The department shall institutionalize the policies, structures, coordination mechanisms and programs with continuing budget appropriation on disaster preparedness and emergency management from national down to local levels towards building a disaster-resilient nation and communities.
The department shall be an independent agency of the nation government and shall maintain its principal office here in Metro Manila and have Regional offices nationwide for the proper conduct of its operations.
The department will ensure that all government agencies and local government units (LGUs) give top priority and take adequate and appropriate measures in disaster preparedness and emergency management.
The secretary shall have the power to appoint all officers and employees of the department whose appointment shall be based on merit and fitness and shall be governed by the Civil Service Laws and other related laws.
The department shall, by virtue of this Act, succeed to all rights and assume all contracts and liabilities of the abolished agencies and offices which shall be acted upon in accordance with the Auditing Code and other pertinent laws, rules and regulations.
The department through its secretary shall issue the necessary rules and regulations for the effective implementation of this Act within ninety (90) days after its approval.
The Congressional Oversight Committee will be created tomonitor and oversee the implementation of the provisions of this Act.
The committee shall be composed of six members from the Senate and six members from the House of Representatives with the chairpersons of the committees on national defense and security of both the Senate and the House of Representatives as joint heads.
After five years of its implementation, the Congressional Oversight Committee shall conduct a sunset review or systematic evaluation of its performance if need arises.