House OKs Department of Disaster Resilience bill on 2nd reading

Mara Cepeda
House OKs Department of Disaster Resilience bill on 2nd reading
The House bill seeks to transfer to the proposed department the 'applicable' powers and funds of existing agencies and offices in charge of disaster risk reduction and management

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives approved on 2nd reading the bill that would create the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR).

Lawmakers gave their nod to House Bill (HB) No. 8165 through viva voce voting or a vote of ayes and nays on Tuesday, September 18. 

If passed into law, HB 8165 would mandate the DDR to be primarily responsible for overseeing and coordinating the preparation, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of disaster and climate change resilience plans and programs. 

The bill would also establish the National Disaster Resilience Council, which shall serve as the department’s policy advisory body on disaster risk and vulnerability reduction, emergency management, and climate change adaptation.

HB 8165 would also order the creation of the Prevention, Mitigation, and Preparedness Fund, which shall be used to support programs for climate change adaptation, disaster risk prevention and mitigation, disaster risk transfer, and disaster preparedness of 3rd to 6th class provinces and municipalities.

Lawmakers approved the bill on 2nd reading after Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut) devastated parts of Luzon over the weekend, killing at least 74 people and affecting over 800,000 others. (READ: In Itogon, sister volunteers to dig beneath the soil to look for brother)

What happens to existing disaster-related agencies and bureaus? Under the bill, the “applicable” powers, functions, and funds of the following agencies would be transferred to the DDR:

  • Office of Civil Defense
  • Climate Change Office
  • Geo-Hazard Assessment and Engineering Geology Section of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau
  • Health and Emergency Management Bureau of the Department of Health
  • Disaster Response Assistance and Management Bureau of the Department of Social Welfare and Development
  • Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP)

The BFP, however, would remain a “distinct entity” within the proposed department, including BFP employees and officials’ uniformed personnel status and benefits. 

The Climate Change Office of the Climate Change Commission would also continue to serve its functions, but would be an office under the DDR.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration as well as the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology would become attached agencies to the proposed department.

Separation pay and other benefits would be given to officials and employees who would be affected by the transfer of agencies and bureaus.

Why push for a new department? No less than President Rodrigo Duterte asked Congress to pass a bill creating the DDR.

He said the proposed department, which would have more powers than the current National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, would help the country respond to natural and man-made calamities faster. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.