Lacson bats for creation of lead agency for disaster response

MANILA Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday highlighted the need for the creation of a lead agency responsible for all disaster-related matters, saying the current setup is limited in disaster response and management.

In an ambush interview after the Congressional Oversight Committee hearing on the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 (RA 10121), Lacson said the current council-type system of disaster management is prone to gaps and could not fully address all the issues brought by disasters.

At present, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) is headed by the Secretary of the Department of National Defense.

Sitting as vice chairpersons are the Secretaries of the Department of the Interior and Local Government for Disaster Preparedness; the Department of Social Welfare and Development for Disaster Response; the Department of Science and Technology for Disaster Prevention and Mitigation; and the Director-General of the National Economic and Development Authority for Disaster Rehabilitation and Recovery.

"Ito puro lateral coordination, tapos monitoring, policy-making. Laging meeting ng meeting. Na-experience ko ito nang nasa Yolanda ako, wala kaming ginawa kundi mag-meeting. At very short sa implementation, Lacson said.

Lacson is former Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (PARR) to oversee the rehabilitation of Yolanda-affected areas from December 10, 2013 to February 10, 2015.

"There's really a need to create a separate agency which I advocated when I was still PARR, which was not addressed at the time. Kung may lead agency that will assume all responsibility, at least ang implementation mapapabilis," Lacson said.

He added that the government should not look at the creation of a new agency as additional cost that would bloat the bureaucracy, citing the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) proposal during the hearing.

OCD deputy administrator Kristoffer James Purisima said the government should look at disaster risk reduction and management as an investment and not as a cost.

Lacson pointed out that the creation of a new agency would lead to the dissolution of the present NDRRMC.

"Kaya ang dapat tingnan natin (creation of a lead agency) not as an added cost but investment for future disasters kasi ang laki ng nawawala sa atin kapag nagkaroon ng disaster at hindi tayo ready, he said.

It's not as if the country is being visited once or twice by typhoons. Minsan nauubos ang alphabet sa pangalan ng typhoons, umaabot sa Zorayda at bumabalik tayo sa A within one year. Ganoon karami ang typhoon sa bansa natin. Not to mention volcanic eruptions, storm surge, and so forth, Lacson added, noting that the Philippines is the third most disaster-prone nation in the world.

He expressed optimism that the creation of a separate new agency to handle disasters would soon be fulfilled.

The proposal is already being studied by a technical working group in the House of Representatives.

I hope the Senate, the counterpart which is the Senate defense committee, can catch up in terms of introducing amendments," Lacson said.

Source: Philippine News Agency