GOV’T RESPONSE. President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and Speaker Martin Romualdez discuss with local officials and provincial engineers updates on magnitude 7 earthquake during their visit in Abra on Thursday (July 28, 2022). They also discussed the immediate rehabilitation and restoration of affected roads, bridges, churches, residential buildings, schools and hospitals following Wednesday’s magnitude 7 earthquake. (Photo courtesy the Office of House Speaker Martin Romualdez)

MANILA – Speaker Martin Romualdez on Thursday said the House of Representatives would support the proposal to create a new body modeled after the United States' Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which will coordinate the government's response to disasters.

Romualdez said it was Senator Imee Marcos who proposed 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.

Senator Marcos said having a FEMA-like setup that would be given more resources to respond to emergencies would be enough rather than creating a full-scale and costlier department.

“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 in a situation briefing held in Bangued, Abra.

Romualdez said the chamber would also support the budgetary requirements to fund the rehabilitation and restoration of public infrastructure in provinces affected by the magnitude 7 earthquake in Northern Luzon.

“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.

In a privilege speech, Abra Rep. Ching Bernos urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to extend all available assistance to Abra to "help us rise from the ashes of this devastating disaster."

"We are optimistic that the father of our nation will look after us and help us get back on our feet, as we resilient Abreños have always done since time immemorial. I assure you, Abra will rise again," Bernos said.

Bernos said the strong earthquake caused damage to many households and establishments in her province.

"Windows of homes were shattered, while walls of establishments showed cracks. Many school buildings that will be used when face-to-face classes next month and health facilities like rural health units, responsible for first-level response in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, were also damaged," she said.

Bernos noted that it was the "strongest earthquake to have impacted the province in recent memory and even the region since the 1990 earthquake in Baguio."

Romualdez said he turned over to Bernos his personal assistance to affected residents.

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

“The government is here, we are here to help,” he said.

He said the presence of the President and government officials in the earthquake-devastated communities eases the people’s anguish.

Marcos said rebuilding efforts must be the government's top priority for the fast recovery of the quake-stricken areas in Abra province and other parts of Luzon.

Stressing that LGUs are the ones that have "fundamental responsibility to bring this aid to the people," Marcos said the national and local governments must "plan everything together."

"The LGUs are always the ones -- the municipal mayors, the governors, the vice governors, ay kayo ang nakakaalam kung ano (they know) what the situation is on the ground," he said. "I will repeat it, national government agencies, lahat nang gagawin ninyo, (everything you will do) please coordinate closely with the local government para ma-maximize ang inyong mga asset (so you can maximize your assets)." (PNA)