Senate of the Philippines

After Luzon earthquake, senators renew push for Department of Disaster Resilience

Mara Cepeda

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After Luzon earthquake, senators renew push for Department of Disaster Resilience

Rescue workers clear the damage at Saint Mark the Evengelist Chapel in Sitio Kamanggan, Mayag, Bauko, Mountain Province. PIA Mountain Province

Philippine Information Agency-Mountain Province

Senators hope President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. would certify as urgent the bill creating the proposed new department

MANILA, Philippines – Senators said the magnitude 7 earthquake that rocked Abra and other parts of Luzon highlights the need for the country to soon have its own Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR).

Hours after the earthquake jolted the Luzon island on Wednesday, July 27, at least six senators made statements urging President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to prioritize the passage of the measure creating the DDR. 

Senator JV Ejercito told reporters that several lawmakers, including himself, have long been pushing for the DDR bill to streamline government operations and services in times of disasters. 

“Meron tayong NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council). But because we are in the Pacific Ring of Fire, prone tayo sa earthquakes, sa volcanic eruptions, pati sa bagyo. Kumbaga, dapat year-round ang preparasyon, ‘yung training, ‘yung acquisition, ‘yung paggawa ng evacuation centers. I think we need a full-fledged department para dito, para ‘pag meron tayong sakuna, handa tayo,” Ejercito said.

(We have an NDRRMC. But because we are in the Pacific Ring of Fire, we are prone to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and even storms. Our preparation, training, acquisition, creation of evacuation centers should be year-round. I think we need a full-fledged department for this so that we would be ready in times of disasters.)

This was echoed by Senator Bong Go, whose top priority bill in the 19th Congress is the refiled version of his DDR bill that failed to hurdle the previous 18th Congress.

“This event, once again, makes our long-running clamor for the establishment of the DDR relevant. Immediate return to normalcy ang isa sa pinakamahalagang magiging mandato ng itatatag na DDR (would be one of the most important mandates of the proposed DDR),” Go said in a statement. 

Under the pending bills in Congress, the DDR would primarily be responsible for overseeing and coordinating the preparation, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of disaster and climate change resilience plans and programs. 

It aims to streamline the government’s response in times of disasters, a process that involves multiple agencies at the moment. The House passed a version of the DDR bill in 2020, but the measure did not fly in the Senate. 

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What we know so far: Luzon earthquake on July 27

What we know so far: Luzon earthquake on July 27

Senator Grace Poe also backs the DDR proposal, saying this new agency would be the first responder during calamities. 

“The proposed body will also efficiently plan and collaborate with concerned agencies and local government units on disaster mitigation and management. Our people especially in vulnerable communities should not suffer more in the face of calamities,” said Poe in a statement. 

Later on during the plenary session, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano made a manifestation urging the Senate leadership to ask the President to certify the DDR bill as urgent. 

“The present NDRRMC [is] filled with committed, very dedicated people. I’ve seen them work, pero Mr. President, ano ‘to (but Mr. President, this is composed of) 44 agencies, ad hoc coordination, coordinating lang sila. We need one department that will be accountable, one department that will be the one to do the job, and we can pinpoint if any coordination is needed,” said Cayetano.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Majority Leader Joel Villanueva agreed with Cayetano’s proposal. 

After Luzon earthquake, senators renew push for Department of Disaster Resilience

The earthquake’s epicenter was recorded in the northern province of Abra, with nearby areas experiencing most of the damage. It did not spare the centuries-old churches and bell towers in Northern Luzon, many of which date back to the Spanish colonial times. 

At least four people died in the Cordillera Administrative Region due to the earthquake, said the Department of the Interior and Local Government. 

Hours after the earthquake struck, Marcos held a press briefing to update the nation on the situation on the ground so far. The President also plans to visit earthquake-hit areas in Northern Luzon, his bailiwick. –

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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 or tweet @maracepeda.