Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda has underscored the need for enactment of the proposed Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) to enable the government to respond to “sudden-onset” emergencies such as the eruption of Mount Bulusan in Sorsogon.
Salceda issued his observation as he renewed his call for the bill’s enactment, stressing that the country still needs a “disaster-focused department” that specializes in “surge capacity” to respond to what he called “sudden-onset” emergencies.
Salceda expressed confidence that President-elect Ferdinand Marcos would renew the push for the DDR during the 19th Congress.
“President BBM said it was his priority in a statement last April, and that he hopes to learn from how the Federal Emergency Management Agency coordinates with other agencies. He’s right about that. In fact, it does not need to be a full-fledged department. It can be something like the FEMA, as long as it can provide the necessary surge capacity to deal with sudden-onset emergencies like a volcanic eruption or like Odette, which only became a super-typhoon hours before landfall.”
“What matters is, nothing surprises the national government’s capacity to respond to big, sudden emergencies that local government simply cannot handle on its own.”
He said the proposed DDR is necessary as the Philippines has some of the largest number of disaster events in the whole world.”
“You also have the second largest number of disaster casualties in the world over the past 20 years. What do you do? Nothing?” Salceda said in a statement.
“I’m sure Sorsogon can handle it, but what matters is we are able to bring back to the national conversation the need for an appropriate institution for national capacity [to respond to disasters] and general welfare,” Salceda added.
Salceda, chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, noted that disasters affect around 10 million people and cause some P15 billion in damage to infrastructure and other assets.
“That doesn’t count opportunity loss, or what could have been the economic activity in affected areas and from affected assets if the disaster were managed better. That’s probably closer to 2 percent of GDP every year,” Salceda added.
Salceda also said local governments, even if they try hard enough, remain inadequately equipped to deal with “sudden-onset” emergencies.
“In Albay, we have around 4 people we can reliably tap any time from the Office of Civil Defense. That’s about it, if you’re talking about full-time capacity. That will never be enough. You really need surge capacity, and that’s what the DDR will specialize in,” Salceda said.