Press Releases

Salceda renews push for disaster-focused department amid Bulusan eruption; House tax chair wants standby surge capacity to respond to “sudden-onset” emergencies

June 8th, 2022

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district), principal author and sponsor of the bill creating the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR), says that the country still needs a “disaster-focused department” that will specialize in “surge capacity” to respond to what the House tax chair calls “sudden-onset” emergencies.

Salceda renewed the call amid questions on what the role of the National Government should be in response to the recent phreatic eruption of Mount Bulusan in Sorsogon.

Salceda, who is also from Bicol, said in an interview today that while he is certain that Sorsogon will be able to handle the concern, the event highlights “that the Philippines has some of the largest number of disaster events in the whole world,” which Salceda says is the reason for the creation of the new department.

“You [the Philippines] also have the second largest number of disaster casualties in the world over the past twenty years. What do you do? Nothing?” Salceda said in Filipino.

“I’m sure Sorsogon can handle it, but what matters is we are able to bring back to the national conversation the need for an appropriate institution for national capacity [to respond to disasters] and general welfare,” Salceda added during the interview.

In comments subsequent to the interview, Salceda added that disasters affect around 10 million individuals and cause some P15 billion in damage to infrastructure and other assets. 

“That doesn’t count opportunity costs, or what could have been the economic activity in affected areas and from affected assets if the disaster were managed better. That’s probably closer to 2 percent of GDP every year,” Salceda added.

Salceda added that local governments, even if they try hard, remain inadequately equipped to deal with what he calls “sudden-onset” emergencies.

“In Albay, we have around 4 people we can reliably tap any time from the Office of Civil Defense.  That’s about it, if you’re talking about full-time capacity. That will never be enough. You really need surge capacity, and that’s what the DDR will specialize in,” Salceda said.

Salceda confident that BBM will renew push for DDR

Salceda also says that he is confident that President-elect Marcos will renew the push for the DDR during the 19th Congress.

“President BBM said it was his priority in a statement last April, and that he hopes to learn from how the Federal Emergency Management Agency coordinates with other agencies. He’s right about that. In fact, it does not need to be a full-fledged department. It can be something like the FEMA, as long as it can provide the necessary surge capacity to deal with sudden-onset emergencies like a volcanic eruption or like Odette, which only became a supertyphoon hours before landfall.”

“What matters is, nothing surprises the national government’s capacity to respond to big, sudden emergencies that local government simply cannot handle on its own.”

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