Nancy Binay: Probe slow Yolanda response
MANILA, Philippines – Nearly a month since Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) walloped the Visayas, Senator Nancy Binay wants a probe into government’s supposed “slow and disorganized” disaster response.
Binay filed Senate Resolution No 405 calling on the Senate to conduct an investigation in aid of legislation into what she called the government’s inadequate response to the world’s most powerful typhoon to make landfall.
“Super Typhoon Yolanda has shown the world of our people’s resilience and our 'bayanihan' spirit. It also exposed how inexperienced and ill-prepared we are in times of national emergencies and disasters. We need to do better, not for the world to see, but to save lives, and provide government agencies the needed equipment, training and support to always be prepared,” Binay said in a statement on Wednesday, December 4.
The daughter of housing czar Vice President Jejomar Binay said that under the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) should be the lead agency in managing relief operations during calamities.
“However, the agency’s preparation before the typhoon made landfall and the disaster response after it hit, was not enough to provide immediate aid to heavily affected areas,” said Senator Binay.
Binay said NDDRMC chairman Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin admitted that there was a delay in the distribution of relief goods because of the limited number of planes. Binay also cited personal accounts from victims and media reports on the slow disaster response.
“Our government’s response was found inadequate. We don’t want that to happen again. We want to improve on how our government can react and recover during such emergencies. We want to be faster, more efficient and we want to straighten things out,” Binay said.
The strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines in recent history, Yolanda killed 5,719 people and left thousands homeless and jobless.
Binay’s resolution comes after she questioned the NDRRMC’s equipment and preparedness during budget hearings at the Senate. In the hearing two weeks ago, the NDRRMC admitted that it has no satellite phone and lacks generation sets and tents.
Satellite phones became crucial in the aftermath of Yolanda because the typhoon cut power and communication lines. The NDRRMC said it now plans to purchase satellite phones.
The military has also said that it will purchase two more C130 cargo planes. During Yolanda, the armed forces only had 3 cargo planes, slowing down the delivery of relief goods. The Philippine Air Force said the ideal number of C130 planes is 9.
Incidentally, among those criticized for the slow disaster response is Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who filed an electoral protest against Binay’s father over the 2010 vice presidential polls. The two are expected to compete again in the 2016 presidential election.
Department for disaster preparedness?
Calls for a Senate probe into government’s response to Haiyan also comes after some senators proposed a separate department for disaster risk reduction.
Senator Grace Poe filed a resolution calling for the establishment of the NDRRMC as a separate department with its chief officer given cabinet rank or level.
She said, “To effectively serve the nation, the Philippine government and the NDRRMC need not primarily burden itself on reactive relief efforts, but proactive efforts to ease the same should be focused upon.”
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano also filed a bill establishing an Emergency Response Department to be headed by a Cabinet secretary.
“Philippine experience shows that there is a need to establish a clear chain of command in times of major disasters, a focused and specialized single government agency that functions not only after the occurrence of disasters, but works all-year-round to ensure that effective mechanisms for disaster risk reduction are in place even before a disaster occurs,” Cayetano said.
In a Thought Leaders piece for Rappler, Ateneo School of Government Dean Tony La Viña said the Senate rejected calls for the creation of a national disaster agency in 2010.
La Viña reiterated his call for an independent national disaster agency following Yolanda.
“A stand-alone disaster agency will not have to compete with the bureaucratic priorities of a host bureaucracy; e.g., the Department of National Defense – or for that matter, the competing bureaucratic priorities of the other Cabinet secretaries who make up the NDRRMC. It can be given the authority to manage the national funds and budgets allocated under RA No. 10121 and international assistance to ensure effective and accountable expenditures.” – Rappler.com