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Salceda lauds approval of disaster department

Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda has lauded the members of the House of Representatives over the approval of the proposed Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) that is expected to address and respond in times of natural calamities as a result of the worsening impact of climate change to disaster-prone areas in the country.

Salceda, chairperson of the House Committee of Ways and Means and principal author of House Bill No. 5989, which seeks to create the DDR, the country’s national emergency management agency, said the approval of DDR will help the country deal with disasters and emergencies “not as unfortunate incidents whose impacts are beyond our control, but as risks that can be mitigated.”

“We can no longer deny the fact that climate change is real, that we are a volcanically and tectonically active country, and that we face several typhoons each year. Disasters are a fact of Philippine life. But we can mitigate the human and socioeconomic costs of these disasters. DDR will help ensure that we have a full-time agency in charge of keeping us strong and ready for disasters,” the Albay lawmaker said.

The program on disaster resilience was first formulated in Albay during Salceda’s incumbency as governor. “Before I became governor, tragedy was a fact of life in Albay. We were what I would call “the Vatican of disasters.” We had typhoons, volcanic activity, and all associated disasters year-round. And it appeared that the culture began to accept death from disasters as almost an inevitability, if a sad fact of life. We just came from Reming, which killed hundreds in Albay,” Salceda said.

The creation of the DDR will ensure that the country is able to anticipate and proactively respond to emergencies and disasters, which Salceda expects to intensify with worsening climate conditions.

The DDR was also approved by the House of Representatives in the 17th Congress, but was not acted by the Senate due to lack of time.

From 2015 until 2016, the review set the basis for the initial drafts of 34 bills and four House resolutions on disaster risk reduction and management.

With support from two consecutive state of the nation address in 2017 and 2018, the proposed legislation seeking to create a DDR gained support from the members of the lower house.

During the 17th Congress, the House of Representatives approved House Bill 8165, creating a new DDR on third and final reading with a total of 181 votes, 5 against, and 2 abstentions.

In the 18th Congress, 27 bills were consolidated into the approved version.

This year the DDR was also certified by President Duterte as a priority measure.

Once implemented, the DDR would be an institutionalized agency coordinating national response to disasters and emergencies, replacing the ad-hoc and primary secretariat-type work of the current National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDDRMC).

“I pioneered the “zero-casualty” doctrine in disaster management. We took a “whatever-it-takes” approach to saving lives, monitoring typhoons as soon as they were detected, and implementing innovative public communication and preparedness programs to build a culture of preparedness in the province,” Salceda said.

“Zero-casualty became the accepted norm. People learned to prepare for disasters days ahead. We treated every casualty as a failure that demanded improvement, and achieving zero-casualty for us became a common duty, not a rare feat,” he said.

As the national emergency management agency, DDR will lead in the continuous development of strategic, holistic and systematic approaches to disaster management, including prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery, and rehabilitation, and anticipatory adaptation strategies, measures, techniques, and options.

“Fortune favors the prepared. We cannot avoid typhoons and other calamities that come with our geography. But we can keep the risks low and the damage controlled. That is resilience: being able to achieve meaningful progress despite natural and external adversitie,” Salceda said.

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