At the Senate hearing on disaster resilience and management, Sen. Lacson cited issues that should be addressed before the Senate can even consider coming up with a committee report creating an entirely new department to address disaster management. Lacson, who chaired the hearing, also stressed the need to shift disaster response and management from reactive to proactive.
During the hearing, Sen. Lacson also questioned where the unspent disaster funds in past years went, even as he stressed the need to allocate more government resources to research and development.
QUOTES and NOTES:
Over the past several years, our country has had to contend with almost all forms of disasters, both natural and man-made. In fact, according to the 2018 World Risk Report, the Philippines ranked third among all the countries with the highest risks worldwide. At least 60% of the country’s total land area is exposed to multiple hazards and 74% of our population is susceptible to their impact.
Having said that, the Filipino people found hope almost 10 years ago with the passage of RA 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, which established the policies, structures, coordination mechanisms and programs, along with the continuing budget appropriation on DRRM from national to local levels. Simply put, this law shifted our DRRM practices from reactive emergency and disaster response and management to pro-active disaster risk reduction and management.
Since RA 10121 was enacted into law, its implementation has been tested a lot of times by a number of natural and man-made disasters that disrupted and claimed lives and properties of our countrymen: Typhoon Pablo in 2012; Typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan in 2013; Zamboanga Siege and Marawi Siege in 2013 and 2017; the recent Mindanao earthquakes; and only last Jan. 12, successive eruptions of Taal Volcano, to name a few.
Looking back at our overall policy on disaster risk reduction and management, we understand that the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council is headed by the Secretary of National Defense as Chairperson with the following Secretaries as the Chairpersons for four distinct yet mutually reinforcing thematic areas, namely: Secretary of DOST for disaster prevention and mitigation; Secretary of DILG for disaster preparedness; Secretary of DSWD for disaster response; and Secretary of NEDA for disaster rehabilitation and recovery, which all gear towards a single vision: safer, adaptive and disaster resilient Filipino communities towards sustainable development.
Truth be told, ours is a framework that has been lauded and recognized by international organizations and institutions, including the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and global Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), as a model for its DRR leadership and for its multi-stakeholder cooperation.
While we have accomplished great strides as a nation, there still lies the fact that much still is to be done in terms on how we handle the DRRM practices in the country. But as we say when it comes to addressing a problem, we must dig the roots instead of just hacking the leaves.
Hence today, we ask the Chairman and Vice Chairpersons of the four thematic areas themselves: Is our NDRRM Framework effective? Are the institutional arrangements established under RA 10121 efficient? How are we performing as we strive to accomplish the set objectives and long-term goals of each thematic area? What barriers or challenges hamper the full realization of the promises of RA 10121?
In terms of our financial investment, more than P259B for the past 10 years in NDRRM funds and QRF. One relevant question that needs to be addressed is, have we infused enough for disaster risk reduction in terms of economic losses from disasters which is equivalent to 4% of GDP? How much resources have we set-aside for rehabilitation and recovery? This is not taking into account the LDRRM funds that constitute at least 5% of all sources of revenues of LGUs from their local revenues and IRA, P575B in 2019 alone. Have we invested enough in our DRR research?
Further, it is acknowledged that our Local Government Units (LGUs) are the front-liners in our disaster risk reduction strategy. Is the risk governance of our LGUs significantly strengthened? Have we provided sufficiently both technical and financial assistance to our LGUs to increase their disaster risk reduction capacity?
Disaster risk reduction is a shared responsibility. It is thus crucial that our disaster risk reduction strategy is inclusive and all-of-society. But, is our current DRR Framework inclusive? What is our engagement with the relevant stakeholders? Are the roles of the non-state stakeholders in our disaster risk reduction strategy clearly defined?
For example, if a Department of Disaster Resilience or Department of Disaster Emergency Management or whatever name we may call it, these questions arise. There are agencies under the different departments. Are we going to uproot or pull out these agencies under the different departments? And there’s a lot. For example, PAGASA under DOST, Phivolcs under DOST, BFP under DILG, Health Emergency Management Bureau under DOH, Climate Change Office, Geohazard Assessment and Engineering, Geology Section under the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Disaster Response Assistance and Management Bureau of DSWD. Ito bang lahat na mga agencies, kung magtatayo tayo ng standalone department, ipu-pull out natin to be absorbed by the new department? These are questions that need to be addressed before we even embark on creating a new department which most of our colleagues, 14 of them, filed separate bills in this regard, the creation of a new department. NHA under HUDCC or the newly created and newly activated Department of Human Settlements. Ito po ang mga tanong na dapat natin i-address before we even consider coming up with a committee report creating an entirely new department to address disaster management.
At the hearing, Sen. Lacson stressed the importance of shifting from reactive to proactive in dealing with disasters.
“Prevention and mitigation na so we can prevent loss of lives, instead of being reactive (na kung nangyari na ang disaster), that’s the only time we scramble.”
Lacson said at least two basic questions need to be addressed first before the Senate can consider creating a new department on disaster resilience: 1. Is the creation of the department necessary? 2. Is it feasible?
Sen. Lacson questioned estimates that the startup fund for a new department would entail only P1 billion. “Sa building pa lang, hindi kakasya P1.7B. Pag kinwenta ang lahat, not even P3B or P5B will be enough.”
Lacson also voiced concerns that up to 70% of funds for a Department of Disaster Resilience may go to overhead expenses, with only 30% of funds to address calamities. “Baka magiging disastrous.”
In the case of Batangas, only P55.106M of its P183.688M Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund would go to actual calamities while the rest went to MOOE and capital outlay.
Lacson questioned where the unspent disaster funds in past years went. Under RA 10121, unused local disaster funds will accrue to a special fund for supporting DRRM activities of the LDRRMCs within the next 5 years. But for funds not used after 5 years, the funds shall revert to the general fund and may be realigned to social services. “Ang tanong, paano ginagastos?”
Lacson cited information reaching him indicating some of the funds went to flood control and concreting of roads, “walang kinalaman sa disaster.” He added it is difficult to audit flood control projects, adding this is why Congress had decided to scrap from the GAA all dredging. “Kasi sayang ang pera, pinagkakakitaan lang ito.”
Sen. Lacson stressed the need to allocate more resources to research and development. He lamented a tiny 0.4% of the government’s entire budget for goes to research. “Ang dami nating magagawa pag may research and development.”
In contrast, big corporations may allocate as much as 15% of gross earnings to research and development, Sen. Lacson said. “I see to it during (budget) amendments, on my own initiative I see to it I augment their budget on research and development.”