Senate President Vicente Sotto III said a bill creating a Department of Disaster Resilience might not be passed during the 18th Congress.
Sotto on Tuesday said the interpellation for the proposed department will most likely be “intense” and that there might not be enough time for it to be tackled by lawmakers. He said the next Congress “might pick it up.”
Lawmakers at the House of Representatives have already passed a version of the bill in 2020, but it remains pending in the Senate. Some senators earlier expressed opposition to the proposal due to a lack of funding.
Proponents see the need for the new department, citing the recent super typhoon which devastated many regions.
In a related development, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri has filed Senate Bill No. 2487 or the Paglaum Fund of 2022, which appropriates P20 billion for the rehabilitation of provinces affected by Typhoon Odette.
“We were in Visayas and Mindanao recently, and we saw just how bad the situation really is on the ground,” Zubiri said.
“Everything’s been flattened down, especially in places like Dinagat and Siargao. Homes and livelihoods have been wiped out. So we really need a substantial budget to help affected provinces rebuild and recover from the typhoon.”
Zubiri was in Visayas and Mindanao before Christmas and just after New Year, visiting affected provinces and delivering rice, groceries, water, tents, and face masks to Odette survivors.
Amid his relief operations, he was also able to speak with local government officials regarding their next steps forward, with regard to recovery and rehabilitation.
“Talking to local officials, we determined that we need at least P20 billion to begin rebuilding affected areas across Visayas and Mindanao,” he said.
“It’s a large amount, and I expect we will run into some budgetary concerns, but we’re really hoping the executive finds it to be a fair assessment of what our affected provinces need, given how massive the damage has been.”
As of 14 January 2022, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has reported that over 2.2 million families have been affected by Typhoon Odette, with infrastructural damage amounting to P17.7 billion, and agricultural damage amounting to P11.5 billion.
Under the Paglaum Fund bill, the NDRRMC will be tasked to create a Rehabilitation Plan for the Department of Budget and Management, identifying specific infrastructure projects for rehabilitation or reconstruction.
In conjunction with the Department of Social Welfare and Development
and local government units, the plan will also provide necessary intervention for affected families, with direct financial subsidies for families or individuals whose homes were damaged by the typhoon.
“Having talked to Odette survivors face to face, and having seen the absolute devastation of their homes and their communities, we really specified the need for direct financial subsidies in the Paglaum Fund bill.”
“So I hope my colleagues can help me pass this bill and ensure that our people will get the support they need in order to recover from Odette as soon as possible,” he further said. With Macon Ramos-Araneta