Press Release
December 5, 2013

Drilon eyes US practice as model for country's disaster response

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said today that the country's experience during the past disastrous events should pave the way for needed reforms in the country's disaster response ability, before the next calamity on the scale of super typhoon "Yolanda" hits the country once more.

Drilon voiced out his proposals during today's joint press conference, hosted during the courtesy call made by the new United States Ambassador Philip Goldberg.

The US envoy had earlier talked with Drilon regarding future developments and issues on Philippine security and foreign policy.

Drilon emphasized that government should improve its capability to prepare for and handle the threat of large-scale natural and man-made calamities.

"The country would do well to look at international practices, especially by advanced countries like the United States regarding disaster preparedness, coordination and response to beef up its own disaster strategy, which was extremely challenged and found wanting during the rampage of super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan)," said Drilon.

"We're looking at that to see the best practices we can adopt here so we'll be able to respond effectively to disasters that will visit us in the future. No question about that," he stressed.

Drilon notes the developments and advances made by the United States with its Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a federal agency which was responsible for the country's response when its southern parts were hit by Hurricane Katrina, and when Hurricane Sandy struck the US eastern seaboard.

"I understand a lot of improvements were adopted by FEMA after Hurricane Katrina, which definitely helped during Hurricance Sandy. We can learn from the bureaucratic management at the federal level of the US government on how they respond to disasters," Drilon explained.

Drilon then suggested that a similar approach could be taken with the Philippines, and that the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), currently the country's main disaster strategy body, could be revamped into a permanent and completely independent government entity.

"In our case, we still have an ad hoc council that handles long-term relief and rehabilitation. We should look at the possibility of having a permanent government structure instead of what we have today, to make it more bureaucratically dynamic," he said.

Still, Drilon emphasized that executive initiatives to improve coordination of the country's response to damages from calamities are already ongoing, even as legislative proposals are "still under thorough discussion."

"Because of the current lack of a permanent structure, the President found the need to appoint a rehabilitation czar in the person of former Senator Lacson," Drilon noted.

During the courtesy call, the Senate President also thanked Ambassador Goldberg and the US government, for "the quick and valuable assistance that the US extended to the Philippines, by committing nearly $52 million worth of assistance on the relief operations for recent calamities."

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