Change of plans: Cimatu, Villar lead Duterte's typhoon task force

After first announcing that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea will lead President Rodrigo Duterte's typhoon task force, Malacañang said there has been a change of plans. Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar will lead the task force instead.

"The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will chair the Build Back Better Task Force, with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) serving as Co-Chair," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement on Wednesday, November 18.

The Palace released the signed Executive Order No 120 on Wednesday.

The DENR and DPWH were chosen to take the lead "in recognition of their respective mandates and core competence," said Roque.

He also said the Duterte government wants a "science-based approach" in rehabilitation and recovery efforts.

But just yesterday, Roque had been saying the choice of Medialdea as task force head was a special feature of the proposed body that would ensure all government agencies would act quickly due to the Executive Secretary's distinction as "primus inter pares" or first among equals in the Cabinet.

Roque also described Medialdea as "the closest alter ego of the President" as a way to assure those skeptical of yet another task force that this task force would be effective.

Roque gave assurances that Medialdea would still have a role in the typhoon rehabilitation task force.

"OP (Office of the President) retains its oversight and the Task Force shall be regularly reporting to the President, through the Executive Secretary," said Roque.

All reports of all task forces really end up on Medialdea's desk before getting to Duterte. 

Role of task force

According to the EO, the task force will be the overall central body in charge of implementing rehabilitation and recovery efforts in areas affected by back-to-back typhoons Rolly (Goni) and Ulysses (Vamco).

It is comprised of virtually all major departments:

  • Defense Secretary and chairman of NDRRMC
  • Human Settlements and Urban Development Secretary
  • Socio-economic Planning Secretary
  • Transportation Secretary
  • Interior Secretary
  • Energy Secretary
  • Trade Secretary
  • Agriculture Secretary
  • Budget Secretary
  • Finance Secretary
  • Education Secretary
  • Health Secretary
  • Social Welfare Secretary
  • Labor Secretary
  • Science and Technology Secretary
  • National Housing Authority General Manager
  • Land Registration Authority Administrator
  • Local Water Utilities Administration Administrator
  • National Electrification Administration Administrator
  • National Irrigation Administration Administrator
  • Philippine Coconut Authority Administrator
  • Cooperative Development Authority Chairman

The task force is envisioned to be a "more permanent body" that will focus on "post-disaster rehabilitation and recovery of typhoon-hit areas" while a proposed "Department of Disaster Resilience" is not yet in place, according to Malacañang. –

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at