Press Releases

Salceda challenges Senate: Take up disaster agency without waiting for the House; Tax panel chair says he is “optimistic” about chances of enacting disaster agency law with Zubiri-led Senate

August 1st, 2022

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district), principal author of the proposal for a Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR), challenged his counterparts in the Senate “to discuss and pass its version of the DDR without waiting for the House, since this proposal does not have to originate in the House,” in response to calls for more disaster preparedness in the wake of recent earthquakes in North Luzon.

“We’re lucky because disaster response is now quick, and the government was able to preposition resources. That is to the credit of this government – especially in light of PBBM’s SONA instructions, which proved very appropriate for this situation. But disaster response is the least our institutions can and should do. An ounce of prevention is always better than a ton of cure, and resiliency is much more than a good response,” Salceda said.

“That is why we need some national agency that does not merely coordinate, unlike the NDRRMC. We need an agency that can conduct its own resiliency activities, to help create safer communities before a disaster even comes.”

“We know disasters will always come our way. The annual cost – real damage and opportunity costs – of disasters amount to between 2.5 to 5% of GDP every year. Over the past decade, from 2010 to 2019, official statistics record 12,097 deaths from disasters, which means that disasters killed around 1,200 people every year. Beyond the economic costs, the State has a moral obligation to save lives, especially from highly preventable causes like disasters,” Salceda added.

Salceda says that the challenge for the Senate “is to take the proposal up, discuss, compromise, craft their own version, and eventually vote on it. If they really believe that we do not need this agency, at least have the honesty to reject it in a committee or plenary vote.”

“This will be the third time we are trying to get this done. It was transmitted under Speaker PGMA – with more than a year for the Senate to consider. The House again approved DDR under Speaker Cayetano, with more than 2 years for Senate consideration. Still no Senate action,” Salceda said.

“I am more optimistic now that Senate President Zubiri leads that chamber. Albay and Bukidnon, his ancestral homelands, are both disaster-prone. Senator Imee Marcos wants to sponsor the disaster agency. So, I think there’s a stronger chance we will get the agency done this time around.”

“It does not have to be a Department as the House wants. It can be something closer to the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA, as Senator Imee recently pointed out. But we just hope the Senate will send us something so that we can hammer out a bicameral version.”

“It’s still early in the President’s term. We have time. But we should not treat this time as an excuse for complacency. If trends continue, we already know that at least 7,200 people will die of preventable disaster-related causes during PBBM’s term of office, if we keep doing what we have kept doing. Knowing that, delaying what we know to be necessary is unconscionable.”

Salceda backs heritage conservation as part of infrastructure

Salceda also says he supports Senator Marcos’s proposal for greater capacity in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to conserve and restore heritage buildings, such as those damaged by the earthquakes.

“Given their importance to the tourism activities of certain areas, such as Vigan, we can consider them [heritage buildings] assets of Philippine society. Therefore, the state has just as much interest in restoring them as, say, the tourism roads that lead to such destinations. Besides, no destination, no point in the tourism roads,” Salceda said.

“So, I agree with Senator Imee on that point. We have to build capacity in the DPWH to restore heritage buildings. Culture and heritage is part of the infrastructure priorities I proposed under the Build Better More Infrastructure Framework,” Salceda added, referring to Joint Resolution No. 6, which establishes a national infrastructure development framework and sets spending targets for the public infrastructure program.

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