Martin G. Romualdez Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin G. Romualdez

Romualdez urges Senate: Pass DDR bill

July 9, 2021 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 476 views

HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin G. Romualdez on Friday renewed his appeal to the Senate leadership to pass the bill creating the Department Disaster Resilience (DDR) before the May 2022 presidential polls amid the continued unrest of Taal Volcano.

Romualdez, chairman of the House committee on rules, recalled that DDR is among President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) priority measure, adding the country needs a department that will focus on rehabilitation efforts and boost the national government’s rehabilitation capacity.

“Much work is expected of us in the 18th Congress until the 2022 elections. But one of the bills that I wish to be enacted into law is DDR. I intend to seek our senators’ help to get this measure approved before our term expires especially now with the continued unrest of Taal Vocano,” said Romualdez, who represents Tacloban City or the most hit part of Eastern Visayas during the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

Romualdez and his wife, Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie K. Romualdez, chairperson of the House committee on welfare of children, are among the principal authors of House Bill (HB) 5989 or DDR, which the House of Representatives on September 22, 2020 voted 241 against seven with one abstention to pass the measure on third and final reading.

It is still pending in the Senate, however.

The measure was read on first reading on September 28 and referred to the Senate committees on national defense and security, peace, unification and reconciliation.

Romualdez, president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), said the country needs a primary government institution that will be responsible for ensuring safe, adaptive, and disaster resilient communities.

“We must not mobilize government resources only when a calamity is about to strike or after a disaster has ravaged entire communities. The Department of Disaster Resilience will provide leadership in the continuous development of strategic and systemic approaches to disaster prevention, mitigation preparedness response, recovery, and rehabilitation,” Romualdez said.

Romualdez, a lawyer from the University of the Philippines (UP) and president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), said “the DDR will provide a clear and comprehensive direction in the implementation of plans, programs, and projects to reduce the risk of natural hazards and the effects of climate change and manage the impact of disasters.”

“We all saw the horrors brought by Typhoon Yolanda. I witnessed the destruction it wrought on our communities in Eastern Visayas. I experienced the pain felt by thousands of families who lost their loved ones. Yolanda was a tragedy that should never happen again,” Romualdez lamented.

Article II, Section 4 of HB 5989 seeks to create the DDR as the primary government agency responsible for leading, organizing, and managing the national effort to reduce disaster risk, prepare for and respond to disasters, recover and rehabilitate, and build forward better after the occurrence of disasters. Its mandate covers all natural hazards.

Under the bill, the DDR may undertake and implement certain emergency measures in anticipation of, during, and in the aftermath of disasters to protect and preserve life and property and ensure and promote public safety and welfare.

Among these emergency measures are carrying out of preemptive and forced evacuation; imposition of curfew; and temporary take over of any private utility or business, subject to payment of just compensation when there is imminent danger of loss of lives or damage to property.

The proposed law also establishes the National Disaster Operations Center (NDOC), Alternative Command Centers (ACC), and Disaster Resilience Research and Training Institute (DRRTI).

The NDOC is a physical center equipped with the necessary tools and systems to monitor, manage, and respond to disasters in all areas of the country, while the ACCs are command centers that would supplemental support to the NDOC.

The DRRTI, meanwhile, is a platform for providing training preferably on site, and for collecting, consolidating, managing, analyzing, and sharing knowledge and information to improve or enhance disaster resilience.

The bill also retains Local DRRM Offices in provinces, cities, and municipalities and renames them as Provincial, City, and Municipality Disaster Resilience Offices, respectively.

Further, the department has powers to recommend to the President the declaration of a state of calamity, whether in whole or part of an area, in case of an extraordinary disaster wherein the repercussions on public safety and welfare are serious and far-reaching.

This bill also renames the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRM Fund) created under Republic Act 2 No. 10121 as the National Disaster Resilience Fund (NDRF) to be managed and controlled by the DDR.

HB 5989 also gives the President powers to impose administrative sanctions against local chief executives and barangay officials for willful or negligent acts performed in the implementation of, or compliance with, this Act and its IRR.

Special courts on disaster resilience matters will also be established once this bill is enacted into law.

The House, in the previous 17th Congress, also passed the same measure on third and final reading while several bills creating a Department of Disaster Resilience have been pending at the committee level in the Senate since 2019.