Amid the massive devastation left behind by Typhoon Odette, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go renewed his call for the legislature to pass a series of bills intended to improve the country’s resilience and capabilities to mitigate, respond to, and recover from natural disasters.
Go pointed out that the Philippines, which is hit by an average of 20 typhoons per year, consistently ranks among the most climate-vulnerable countries. It recently ranked fourth in the list of countries most affected by extreme weather events from 2000 to 2019 in the Global Climate Risk Index (2021) developed by Bonn-based think tank Germanwatch.
To mitigate the loss of life and property due to natural disasters, the senator specifically pushed for the passage of a long overdue measure that would institutionalize a clear chain of command, responsive mechanisms, and holistic and proactive approach to handling crisis situations.
Introduced in 2019, Go’s Senate Bill No. 205 consolidates all disaster-related agencies into the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR). Doing so would allow for a more concerted approach toward disaster risk reduction and the quicker and more efficient delivery of services during times of crises.
“Kung gaano kabilis at kadalas ang pagdating ng krisis sa ating bansa, dapat lamang na maging mas mabilis, maayos, at maaasahan ang serbisyo ng gobyerno upang maprotektahan ang kapakanan at buhay ng bawat Pilipino,” said the lawmaker.
“Isang aspeto na dapat natin maisaayos ay ang inter-agency coordination. Ito ang dahilan kung bakit matagal ko nang inirerekomenda at paulit-ulit ko nang sinasabi na dapat magkaroon ng isang departamento para mayroong timon na tagapamahala ng preparedness, response, and resilience mechanisms pagdating sa mga sakuna,” he added.
Go further noted that all disaster-related agencies, such as the Office of Civil Defense and Philippine Institute of Volcanology, are currently dispersed across different departments. Meanwhile, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council is relegated to serving as a coordinating body between the various agencies.
If enacted, the proposed department will be primarily responsible for ensuring communities are disaster-resilient, adaptive and safe in the long run. It will focus on three key result areas, namely: disaster risk reduction, disaster preparedness and response, and recovery and building forward better.
Aside from the DDR bill, Go likewise called for the passage of SBN 1228 which provides for the establishment of a permanent evacuation center in every province, city and municipality. The bill, which he filed in the same year and has since passed first reading, proposes a minimum set of requirements for every evacuation center, such as its location, accessibility, operation and amenities.
Each center will be directed to maintain a stockpile of essential supplies, such as food, water, clothing, medicine and hygiene packages. It will also have fully-equipped facilities to further ensure the well-being of every Filipino as they weather typhoons and other calamities.
To fast-track the affected families’ recovery, Go also appealed for the enactment of SBN 2393, otherwise called the Rental Housing Subsidy Act, to provide families displaced by natural and man-made disasters the necessary housing subsidies so they can relocate during the interim process of construction and have better access to the formal housing market.
“Tutulungan ng batas na ito na mabigyan ang mga mahihirap at informal settler-families natin ng disenteng buhay. Hangad ko ang suporta ng mga mambabatas dahil ang lahat ng ‘to ay para sa kabutihan ng Pilipino,” continued the senator.
“Asahan niyo na gagawin ko ang parte ko sa Senado upang isulong ang lahat ng mga nais nating makamit sa pamamagitan ng pagpasa ng mga makabuluhan at epektibong batas gaya nito,” he vowed.
Two days after Typhoon Odette made landfall, Go joined President Rodrigo Duterte to assess the situation in affected areas, give aid and comfort to victims, and help fast-track recovery efforts. They conducted inspections and situation briefings from December 18 to 20, particularly in most-hit communities such as Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Islands, Southern Leyte, Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental.