Press Release
November 21, 2013

In aftermath of powerful storm Yolanda
Cayetano files 'Emergency Response Department' bill

Being well-prepared and responsive is still key in times of calamities and disasters.

A measure has been filed in the Senate seeking to establish a focused and specialized single government agency that would not only oversee humanitarian emergency assistance in times of disaster, but will also concentrate on disaster risk reduction and management in a full-time capacity.

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter "Companero" Cayetano filed Senate Bill No. 1940 on Thursday which, if enacted into law, would establish an "Emergency Response Department" (ERD) that will be headed by a person with a rank of Cabinet Secretary.

In the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda, Cayetano stressed the need for the creation of a new department which will be streamlined and responsive, with only one person in charge, and will be completely focused on disaster preparedness "24 hours a day and 365 days a year."

"Philippine experience shows that there is a need to establish a clear chain of command in times of major disasters, a focused and specialized single government agency that functions not only after the occurrence of disasters, but works all-year-round to ensure that effective mechanisms for disaster risk reduction are in place even before a disaster occurs," Cayetano said in filing SB 1940.

"Such specialized department shall stubbornly focus bear laser-like preciseness in focus, give primacy to pre-disaster resilience-building, and prioritize life preservation and basic subsistence needs in the communities affected by a disaster."

Also, the proposed legislation allocates more funds for disaster preparedness and response, while designating the ERD as the manager of a Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Disaster (HEAD) Fund, and all donations, monetary or otherwise, during disasters in order to ensure accountability and the responsible use of public funds.

It said that at least one percent (1%) of the estimated revenue from regular sources of government, or P20 billion, whichever is higher, shall be set aside as an annual appropriation for unforeseen expenditures arising from the occurrence of calamities.

"Moreover, the legislation penalizes, in clear and unequivocal terms, the corruption of funds and/or donations devoted to disaster risk reduction and management efforts. The penalty for such corruption of funds and/or donations is heavier than those penalties prescribed under the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010," Cayetano said.

"This would express a strong policy of the State against corruption and its intolerance of greed, during times of utmost need, in times of disasters."

According to the bill, ERD is envisioned to have the following functions:

  • Assume all of NDRRMC and Office of Civil Defense (OCD)'s functions related to disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM);

  • Supervision and control over regional and local emergency response offices;

  • Supervision over PAG-ASA and PHIVOLCS;

  • With consent of President, may call out AFP and PNP to suppress lawless violence;

  • May call upon other agencies, NGOs, civic orgs for use of facilities and resources; and

  • Power to call the civilian reserved forces to assist in relief/rescue

"The department must be simple in character, independent yet connected and coordinated, empowered, capacitated, national in scope, and civilian in character in order to carry out its mandate effectively. It must not be a mere coordinating body which operates on an ad hoc basis," Cayetano said.

"It has long been established that, under the principle of administrative convenience, the efficiency of the delivery of frontline services is enhanced through the creation of a full pledged department which is dedicated to an area of service within its primary competence."

Also under the bill, the ERD is to have four bureaus under it:

  • Hazard Education and Risk Mitigation - in charge of inventory/checklist of personnel, equipment, supplies; review of Building Code, Fire Code and land-use plans; and creation of GIS, hazard-mapping.

  • Disaster Preparedness - in charge of information, education, communication and advocacy plans; formulation of training modules and simulation exercises; and crafting contingency plans, prepositioning of goods and equipment.

  • Humanitarian Emergency and Relief Operations (HERO) - in charge of formulating needs assessments, identification of relief shelters and sites; planning an integrated and coordinated system of search, rescue and retrieval; and deployment of relief goods and personnel.

  • Administration and Finance - has the power to declare state of calamity; recommends Presidential declaration of state of national calamity; manages the Humanitarian and Emergency Assistance and Disaster (HEAD) Fund; in charge of the complete, accurate, timely record of budget allocation and disbursement; and monitors and provides guidelines/procedure for release, utilization, accounting, auditing of local HEAD Fund, among others.

Another salient feature of the bill is grant of power to the ERD Secretary to "commandeer any private property for urgent public purpose, subject to payment of just compensation in appropriate cases, when there is a clear and present danger that a disaster or humanitarian emergency would cause imminent loss of lives and/or the massive destruction of property, and time is of the essence."

"The commandeering powers shall last no longer than necessary or for as long as the circumstances require," the bill read.

News Latest News Feed