Mandatory review of disaster law did not take place in Congress

Sofia Tomacruz

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Mandatory review of disaster law did not take place in Congress
'Nasa batas ng (Republic Act) 10121 that after 5 years, kakaroon ng 'sunset review'…Ngunit sa kasamaang palad... Congress did not call for a sunset review,' says former National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Executive Director Alexander Pama

MANILA, Philippines – Former National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Executive Director and Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Undersecretary Alexander Pama said no review of Republic Act 10121 or the disaster management act of the Philippines took place in Congress, despite it being mandated by law.

Nasa batas ng (Republic Act) 10121 that after 5 years, kakaroon ng “sunset review”…Ngunit sa kasamaang palad, stricly speaking, Congress did not call for a sunset review,” Pama said during the Resilience Marketplace for Innovation forum on Thursday, August 23.

(It’s in the law of RA 10121 that after 5 years, there will be a sunset review… Unfortunately, strictly speaking, Congress did not call for a sunset review.)

Pama, who served as NDRRMC executive director from 2014 to 2016, was responding to groups who asked for the outcome of the review of the law and what issues were found during the review.

With RA 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act passed in 2010, a formal review should have been carried out by the congressional oversight committee in 2015. In consultation with sectors and agencies, the committee was to assess the performance and organizational structure of implementing agencies included in the law. (EXPLAINER: Who’s supposed to be in charge during disasters?)

Continuity issues: Pama said nationwide consultations with various groups involved in NDRRMC operations took place, but then the 2016 national elections were well underway when the time came for a formal review.

By 2016, Pama was also no longer in charge of the NDRRMC.

“The last congressmen, hanggang inabot ng elections 2016 at inabot na po na ako’y napalitan na po,” Pama said.

However, results from consultations done for the formal review were still consolidated. This in turn served as at the basis for bills proposing the creation of an department solely for disaster risk and management. (READ: Gov’t eyes ‘stronger’ disaster management agency to replace NDRRMC)

Para sa kala po ng lahat, 2015 nag-umpisa na po tayo ng consultations nationwide, siguro alam yun po sa karamihan niyo iyan, na may nag-ikot sa atin, na nag consultations po tayo. In fact, we have have a product na iyon po ang naging proposal,” Pama said.

(So that everyone know, we started nationwide consultations in 2015, most of you might know that, that we had people go around, that we had people consult.)

Naging karaan bago pumasok yung 17th congress. Doon po nagmula yung recommendation na magkakaroon ng NDRRM authority,” he added. (This happened before the 17th Congress came in. This is where recommendation to have a NDRRM authority came from.)

Was RA 10121 a failure? According to Pama, the law did not fail in its objective to develop a framework to strengthen disaster management in the Philippines.

“I can honestly say it is not (a failure). Hanggang ngayon po tinitignan yung ating batas na ito (Until now this law is regarded) as one of the standards in the world,” he said.

Problems – or anything lacking in the law – Pama said, was “both at the policy level and the implementing level.”

He added the different versions of bills tackling the creation of a disaster risk and management authority were a result of the NDRRMC’s review in 2015. A version of the law was discussed by Ako Bicol Representative Rodel Batocabe during the forum.

Batocabe sought to allay concerns raised from representatives in civil society organizations and local disaster risk management officers that the proposed new agency would remove their consultations and participation in disaster management operations.

Pama added, “Ang ginagawa po natin is kung meron mang lalabas na bagong batas ay para ma-improve lalung lalo na doon sa mga portion na hindi nabigyan ng tamang pansin.” (What we are doing is if there is a new law that is passed, it will be to improve the portions that were not given proper attention to.) – 

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.