Disaster resilience

Climate change made its presence felt yet again with the onslaught of super typhoon “Karding” early this week. Our cellphones collectively made successive alerts in the wee hours of Monday with the entry of what was surprisingly a typhoon that had Signal No. 5 being raised in some areas. Thankfully, “Karding” weakened as it approached Metro Manila, sparing the business district of destruction and possibly evacuation of residents from flood-prone areas. However, not all areas were spared, with the provinces of Quezon, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija getting hit the hardest.

As someone from the insurance industry, I cannot help but be wary of typhoons and other natural calamities since these bring about damage and injury to peoples’ lives and our properties. The Philippines is no stranger to typhoons, akin to the relationship between Japan and its earthquakes. Our people have adapted to this lifestyle of weathering strong rains and wind. We can say we are naturally and mentally ready for typhoons, as we see Filipinos dancing under the rain and swimming in flooded areas. However, it is a question of whether our government has adapted to climate change.

“Karding” brought about the revival of the talks in Congress for the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience, one of the legislative bills unsettled from the previous administration. To recall, the Duterte administration called for the creation of several new government offices, but of them all, the following stood out: Department of Overseas Foreign Workers, Department of Disaster Resilience and Department of Water. Of the three, only the first one was successfully created, but renamed Department of Migrant Workers, now headed by Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople.

Senator Bong Go refiled his bill for the creation of the DDR, citing the need to unify and streamline responsibilities related to disaster response and preparedness which are functions scattered in countless offices, both national and local. This was seconded by Rep. Joey Salceda, citing the need for a “reserve of exogenous resources” for response to natural calamities.

He further explained that these lower-class municipalities cannot be expected to fend off super typhoons on a normal basis, and aid must come from the national government, particularly from a single agency.

Perhaps, the prime incident on the need for the DDR was when we saw President Bongbong Marcos Jr. surveying the typhoon-struck areas from the Presidential helicopter. Notably, the President decided not to land in any of the areas from his chopper. Upon being asked, he said that he did not want to interfere or meddle in the operations of the LGUs. If he landed, then the LGUs would have to drop everything and remove attention from those who need it the most.

This instance highlights that even the President, rightly so, should excuse himself from those who are on top of the main issues of concern. The proper person to go on the ground and coordinate everything must be the Secretary of DDR and his officers, not the President. Additionally, the DDR should have funds to release to ensure proper response.

As for preparedness and security, DDR may also be the central agency to supervise and monitor entry of typhoons and other calamities, as well as the provision of insurance for the security and protection of Filipinos and their properties.

With climate change among the key priorities of President Marcos, Jr., the creation of DDR should fit well into the legislative agenda.

For comments, email him at darren.dejesus@gmail.com.

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