By Javier J Ismael/Manila Times
Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go has called anew for the early passage of Senate Bill (SB) 205, which seeks to create the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR), and another measure mandating the establishment of mandatory evacuation centres nationwide.
The chairman of the Senate health and demography committee said there was a need for a change in the mindset and approach in dealing with natural disasters and calamities, given that these situations were regular occurrences in the country.
He added that the hardships caused to the people by such calamities were heightened in times of crisis such as the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Go also highlighted the importance of promoting awareness, disseminating information and educating the public on disaster preparedness, especially as the country observes the National Disaster Resilience Month.
Executive Order 29, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on June 2017, mandates the observance of National Disaster Resilience Month nationwide every July.
“We should acknowledge the fact that government as a whole can do more to educate and inform the public when it comes to disaster preparedness, especially the local government units that are most affected by the pandemic, or near a volcano, or frequently hit by typhoons and earthquakes,” Go said.
The senator filed in July last year SB 205, or the “Department of Disaster Resilience Act,” which seeks to create an empowered, highly specialised and responsive DDR with clear unity of command and primarily responsible in ensuring safe, adaptive and disaster-resilient communities.
The department will concentrate on three key areas: disaster risk reduction, disaster preparedness and response, and recovery and building forward better.
Presently, various government agencies dealing with disaster risk reduction and management are scattered in several departments and offices, and the current lead National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council is merely a co-ordinating body.
“It’s time to scale up preparedness and resiliency against disasters.
It’s also time to have a separate department that is focused on this kind of occurrences.
It should be clear who is in-charge in this kind of situation,” the senator said.
Aside from the DDR bill, Go also filed SB 1228, or the “Mandatory Evacuation Centre Act,” which will require every province, city and municipality to construct such centres that will be equipped with emergency packs, medicines and other basic necessities.
While the Mandatory Evacuation Centre bill is being deliberated in the Senate, Go acknowledged the need for temporary evacuation centres with the onset of the typhoon season.
He urged authorities to set guidelines to ensure that these temporary evacuation centres are also Covid-proof.
“With the onset of the typhoon season, it is expected that many Filipinos that might be hit by typhoons will be needing evacuation centres.
I am calling on the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to come up, as early as now, with guidelines ensuring that those who will occupy the evacuation centres are Covid-free and will follow health protocols,” Go said.
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