MANILA, Philippines – National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Executive Director Ricardo Jalad is lukewarm on the proposal for a new department focusing on disaster management, saying that it could be “overwhelming.”
The proposed Department of Disaster Resilience would handle not just disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM), but rehabilitation and construction as well.
“It is overwhelming. Even for the [Department of Public Works and Highways], for example, to undertake construction activities,” Jalad said in a Senate hearing tackling the proposed department on Monday, November 11.
“That will be a very big function to be placed in a department,” he added, also citing a “problem with capacity.”
Jalad was repeatedly asked by Senator Francis Tolentino if he would support the proposed creation of the new department. Tolentino said Jalad seemed to be “hesitant” in acknowledging the urgent need for the department.
“If we limit to DRRM, certainly yes, sir,” said Jalad.
Pressing Jalad further, Tolentino cited preparations for calamities.
“Kung meron sanang department of disaster management, eh ‘di sana napa-plano ‘to…. So sa tingin ‘nyo itong setup eh hahayaan na lang natin dahil sabi ‘nyo, with all due respect, eh overwhelming ito sa bagong departamento dahil sa sabi nila, parang nagtayo na tayo ng isang gobyerno?” the senator asked.
(If there’s a department of disaster management, we would be able to plan [for calamities]. So you think we should just go with the current setup, since you said, with all due respect, that it would be overwhelming for a new department because it would virtually be like building a new government?)
Jalad said disaster management officials really need the expertise of other departments to conduct post-disaster needs assessment, from planning to implementation.
After senators pointed out that the intention of creating a new department is to make sure that the buck stops with its secretary, Tolentino asked Jalad again if he thinks there is a need for the new department.
Jalad replied in the affirmative, but he said that expectations must be “managed.”
“There should be a management of expectations that if we do not assume the many functions of the department, we have the tasking authority [over other departments] na, ‘Gawin ‘nyo to.’ (to tell them, ‘Do this’),” Jalad said.
“The department cannot be the implementing agency of all interventions for rehabilitation. In fact, most of these interventions will be done by the different agencies which will be tasked by that [Department of Disaster Resilience],” Jalad said.
During President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address last July, he renewed his call for Congress to create the Department of Disaster Resilience.
The call for the new department strengthened as 3 powerful earthquakes rocked Cotabato in October, killing at least 21 people and injuring over 300.
In November, the Senate said it will prioritize the creation of the department, adding that “it’s about time” the country had its own department that oversees disaster preparedness and response. – Rappler.com
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