It is relatively easy to pass a law creating new departments. But would it be feasible, and will there be proper funding for it? The Department of Budget and Management says at least P1.5 billion is needed to set up the department. That does not yet include added salaries, capital outlay like office facilities, furniture, vehicles, MOOE, and CIF.
During the first public hearing last January, no less than the stakeholders who served as resource persons also cited concerns about creating a new department for disaster and risk reduction:
First, there is a policy direction for right-sizing the bureaucracy that is already bloated.
Second, the implementation especially of recovery and rehabilitation will be carried out not by the proposed new department but by existing agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Department of Health.
Third, we can see that the newly created departments like the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development cannot be properly funded, or at least are not given the appropriate funding to work properly.
Having said that, a dedicated office under the Office of the President with a Cabinet rank and full authority to mobilize the concerned government agencies before, during and after calamities both natural and man-made – from policy-making and planning all the way to implementation – would do the job with much less funding and minimum number of staff and personnel. In contrast, a council-type organization like the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has a very limited capability mainly because it is merely coordinative.
The Senate sought P20B in calamity funds in the 2020 budget, but the bicameral conference committee approved only P16B. Where did the P4B go? Sen. Lacson answers questions on the subject in a phone patch interview on DZBB and GMA News TV.
The World Economic Forum conducted in Geneva, Switzerland in 2017 identified both natural and man-made disasters as among the top global risks that can cause significant negative impact for several countries and industries within the next 10 years. But long before this risk has been widely talked about in international fora, disasters have unfortunately become a frequent life experience in the Philippines, and our recent history attests to this untoward reality.
Just last Friday, Nov. 8, we commemorated the sixth anniversary when category-five Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) cut a swath of unprecedented destruction across 171 cities and municipalities in Central Philippines. In the same breath, we are one with our brothers and sisters in Mindanao as they continue to heal from the scars caused by the Zamboanga siege in 2013 and the Marawi crisis in 2017. In between, various parts of the country are being shaken, quite literally, by earthquakes and numerous aftershocks; most recent of which were the three strong quakes that hit the island of Mindanao in the past weeks, affecting 146,000 Filipinos, most of whom are still living in tents as we speak.