Editorial: Focus, tenacity, and real concern is what we need

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

SO, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV has proposed the establishment of an agency to replace the existing National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) through Senate Bill 819.

As reported, Trillanes proposes the setup of an Emergency Management Agency under the Office of the President to formulate policies aimed at reducing the risk of disasters, mitigate possible damage to life and property, initiate rapid and effective response to disasters, and effectively manage post-disaster recovery.

We’ve said this before in our editorial last December 3, 2013 “The disaster that is our disaster body", in recognition of the fact that whether we like it or not, the Philippines is among the most disaster-prone countries in the whole wide world, and what have we got to attend to this? A disaster coordinating body that does not have any powers except to coordinate with the powers that be.

“Being under the Department of National Defense, it (NDRRMC) allocates funds from the small budget slice of DND. Also, under the current set up, the Secretary of National Defense serves as the head of NDRRMC. But because of the full-time demand of the National Defense, he can only focus on the NDRRMC during calamities,” Trillanes said.

True. Why else are we always caught unaware when yet another disaster strikes?

We were caught unaware when the Ormoc flashflood hit in the 1990s. We were still unaware when Typhoon Ondoy hit Metro Manila. Still flatfooted as ever were we when Sendong hit, and then Pablo and then Yolanda. Simply because, the disaster body that we have is nothing but an afterthought and tasked to work after the fact.

A real, functioning, and life-saving disaster risk reduction body will be focusing not just when disaster strikes but will most of all study both the science and practical applications of climate change. We may have the Department of Science and Technology to do the science for us, but remember, they also have to do the science for… wait… applications for livelihood development, research and development for agriculture and health and even nuclear physics, and a whole long list of concerns. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources may have the science for finding disaster-prone areas through its Mines and Geoscience Bureau, but the same very rare geologists still have to attend to mines and geosciences as an industry and major environmental concern. The Department of Agriculture may have programs for post-disaster agricultural development but on normal days their focus are the farms, the farmers, and the normal flow of agriculture development.

As an afterthought, these departments along with the Department of National Defense, and a whole unwieldy, bumbling bureaucracy form the NRRDMC whenever calamity hits.

That is the sum total of what we call Philippine disaster preparedness. As a result, all we are getting are promises that there will be zero casualties and then muffle the death toll and sack the police officer in order that the count will not reach 10,000.

In the Congress, House Bill 3486 calls for the creation of the Department of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (DDPEM) to replace NDRRMC. This was filed last week by House independent bloc led by Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez.

Lett us hope and pray that all those we have elected to make laws will deliberate this with us in mind and not as a means to grandstand while the concern for disasters is running very high.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on December 10, 2013.


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