(Photo courtesy of DSWD Eastern Visayas) 

MANILA – Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday said disaster response has to go beyond delivering relief goods and must include rehabilitation as well, as he called on the Senate to pass the bill creating the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR).

Cayetano made the call as parts of Visayas and Mindanao continue to reel from the aftermath of Tropical Storm Agaton that left 212 people dead and 132 missing, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRMC).

“Magaling na po tayo sa relief programs, pero sa rehabilitation at disaster management, mahina pa ho (We are already good with relief programs, but we are weak in rehabilitation and disaster management),” he said in a media interview.

“I hope we don't have to wait for the next Senate kasi meron pa namang ilang session days bago matapos po ang Kongresong ito (because we still have a few session days before the [18th] Congress ends),” he added.

The storm affected more than 2.2 million people across nine regions of the country, leaving an estimated PHP1.3 billion in agricultural damage and another PHP6.9 million in damages to infrastructure.

The NDRRMC also reported that it has released more than PHP82 million in relief goods and other forms of assistance to those affected by “Agaton'' as of April 24.

Cayetano also pointed out that having a single government agency in charge of disaster response in the country will ensure accountability.

“Yung Department of Disaster Resilience po ay napaka importante kasi kailangan po pagdating sa pagmi-mitigate ng mga disasters at tsaka pagdating po sa rehabilitation, may isang nagtuturo, may isang pong accountable, at isa pong nakatutok talaga dyan (The Department of Disaster Resilience is so important to mitigate disasters and when it comes to rehabilitation, there should be an entity that should take responsibility and be held accountable),” he said.

Cayetano said allowing government departments to take on too many tasks would lead to a lack of executive focus, which was the primary reason for devolving the former Department of Education, Culture and Sports into separate agencies for basic education, higher education and technical education.

He recalled how multiple government agencies involved in disaster response have had to take on additional tasks during the pandemic.

“Kasi, kita niyo po, may Covid na e, pero ang kalamidad po ba, ang sunog, ang bagyo, ang lindol, eto po ba ay tumitigil? Hindi. Pero ang mga departamento, hilong-hilo na rin sa kaka-multitasking (You see, there was Covid [coronavirus disease] already. But did calamities, fires, storms, earthquakes stop from happening? However, various departments are already getting confused with all the multi-tasking,” Cayetano said.

Under House Bill No. 5989, the DDR will be 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.

It would also oversee and coordinate the preparation, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of disaster and climate resilience plans, programs, projects, and activities, among others. (PNA)