House Speaker vows budgetary support for rehab of earthquake-affected areas

The House of Representatives will support the allocation of funds in the national budget for the rehabilitation and restoration of public infrastructure in provinces affected by the magnitude 7 earthquake in Northern Luzon, Speaker Martin G. Romualdez assured on Thursday.

Romualdez made the remarks as he joined President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr., Senator Imee Marcos and other top government officials in visiting earthquake victims and communities damaged by the tremor in Abra to check on their situation.

Romualdez said it was Sen. Marcos who floated the idea of allocating restoration funds and creating an agency under the Office of the President that would allow the prompt mobilization of funds and resources to calamity-stricken areas.

“Mr. President, on the part of the House, we shall support the good senator’s proposal here owing to the fact that we’ve always been looking for best practices, and FEMA or even the AFAD in Turkey are great models for best practices for these protocols,” Romualdez said.

The Speaker was referring to the Federal Emergency Management Authority of the United States and its Turkish counterpart.

“We shall also join the good senator from Ilocos Norte on her call to support the budgetary requirements. For the restoration of the heritage and cultural sites as well…as the various infrastructures in the situation report,” he said.

Romualdez said this would be done in coordination with the representatives and local officials of the affected provinces.

He also appealed for help for the earthquake victims.

The House Speaker said the government and the private sector should join hands in helping the victims and rehabilitating communities that suffered damage.

Romualdez also prodded state agencies, especially those allocated disaster-related quick response funds in the national budget, to come to the immediate assistance of the victims.

He said these offices should swiftly mobilize available funds to distribute relief goods, farm inputs like seeds and fertilizer, provide financial assistance, undertake road repairs, or fix damaged school buildings, health centers, and other public infrastructure.

The agencies could also use other funds in their budgets allocated for these purposes, he added.

Romualdez also urged his colleagues in the affected provinces to do their own damage assessment in preparation for the next budget hearings.

DDR

Meanwhile, Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte said the recent powerful earthquake that struck Northern Luzon has underscored the need for the immediate passage of the measure seeking to establish a Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) which will coordinate and better manage the country’s disaster preparedness, response and rehabilitation efforts.

Duterte, along with Benguet Rep. Eric Yap, Quezon City Rep. Ralph Tulfo and ACT-CIS Party-list Reps. Edvic Yap, Jocelyn Tulfo and Jeffrey Soriano have recently filed House Bill No. 452 that aims to create the DDR.

The measure seeks to create an “empowered, highly specialized, science and ICT [information and communications technology]-based and fast and responsive Department of Disaster Resilience, with the clear unity of command which shall be primarily responsible for ensuring safe, adaptive and disaster-resilient communities.”

Duterte said that under the bill, the DDR shall manage and direct the implementation of national, local and community-based disaster resilience and disaster management programs, projects and activities in collaboration with relevant government agencies, local government units (LGUs), civil society organizations, academic groups and other stakeholders.

Duterte pointed out that their proposed measure includes the establishment of a National Disaster Operations Center (NDOC), Alternative Command and Control Centers  (ACCCs) in the regions and the Disaster Resilience Research and Training Institute (DRRTI).

He said the DRRTI will help develop a highly professionalized corps of officers that will be in charge of, among others, multi-hazard mapping; risk analysis and the setting up of a database that includes relevant information from other government agencies and third parties for the DDR to better prepare and respond to natural hazards.

The DRRTI also includes the establishment of reliable and up-to-date disaster-related information and communications systems and technologies through close coordination with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and academic institutions.

“If we are to create a Department of Disaster Resilience, we should make it a strong, dependable agency by employing the latest technologies available. This will ensure that the DDR will be efficient and effective in performing its task of being the country’s main disaster management agency,” Duterte said.

The use of space technology, artificial intelligence, drones, radars, computer models, and micromapping, to name a few, should be accessible to the DDR, Duterte said.

Duterte’s proposal also calls for the creation of a Disaster Assistance Action Center (DAAC), which will function as a one-stop-shop to process necessary documents for both domestic and international assisting actors.