Senator Christopher “Bong” Go renewed his call for the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience to ensure quicker response and more proactive and holistic approach in preparing for calamities and other natural disasters. This, following the earthquake that struck Northern Luzon, particularly Abra province, and was felt in Metro Manila and other areas on Wednesday, July 27.

“First things first, dalangin ko na sana ay walang masyadong nasaktan sa malakas na lindol kaninang umaga,” said Go in a statement.

“Tiwala ako na laging handa ang ating pamahalaan para matulungang makabangon kaagad ang mga kababayan natin. Handa rin akong tumulong sa kahit anong kapasidad sa ating mga apektadong kababayan,” he added.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology initially measured the quake as a magnitude 7.3 quake but the later revised it to 7.0.

The epicenter was about 3 kilometers northwest of the Municipality of Tayum in Abra province, and was also felt in nearby areas and various parts of Luzon.

The event, according to Go, makes his long-running clamor for the establishment of the Department of Disaster Resilience even more relevant.

“Once established, we will have a Cabinet secretary-level department whose primary tasks are not limited to extending immediate assistance but also making sure the rapid recovery and rehabilitation of affected communities,” said Go.

“‘Immediate return to normalcy’ ang isa sa pinakamahalagang magiging mandato ng itatatag na DDR,” he added.

Go has reintroduced in the 19th Congress Senate Bill No. 188 to establish the DDR. The said measure seeks to create a highly specialized agency that will be tasked with ensuring adaptive, disaster-resilient and safe communities.

The DDR will bring together all essential functions and mandates currently scattered among various disaster-related agencies. 

To support the DDR’s functions and responsibilities, the measure also provides for the creation of an Integrated Disaster Resilience Information System which will serve as a database of all relevant disaster risk reduction and climate change information.

Moreover, the bill provides for the establishment of a Humanitarian Assistance Action Center, a one-stop shop for the processing and release of goods, equipment and services, in order to guarantee the timely delivery of assistance to disaster-stricken areas. 

It likewise provides for remedial measures for areas under a state of calamity, such as the imposition of price ceiling on basic necessities and prime commodities, programming or reprogramming of funds for the repair of public infrastructures, and grant of no-interest loans by lending institutions to vulnerable groups or individuals. 

Finally, the measure establishes the National Disaster Operations Center and Alternative Command and Control Centers to monitor, manage and respond to disasters. There will also be a Disaster Resilience Research and Training Institute which will offer training, and collect, manage and share information to improve the country’s resilience. 

Following the Abra earthquake, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, during the Senate regular session on Wednesday, delivered a manifestation asking the Senate to urge President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. to certify as urgent the measures creating the DDR. 

Both Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Majority Leader Joel Villanueva also expressed their support for the legislation. 

Meanwhile, Go likewise called on his fellow senators to pass SBN 193, or his Mandatory Evacuation Center Bill, that will require the establishment of such safe, dedicated and equipped centers in every province nationwide. 

The bill also provides the minimum requirements for every evacuation center, including the location, structural or building capacity, and amenities and accessibility.

In particular, the evacuation centers shall be constructed and designed to withstand super typhoons or wind speeds of at least 300 kilometers per hour and seismic activity of at least 8.0 magnitude. 

The evacuation centers should be calamity-resilient, be built with sturdy materials and in accordance with the specifications of Republic Act No. 6541, otherwise known as the “National Building Code of the Philippines”, and should be at par with the standards set by the International Building Code.

Go then assured that he will not tire of pushing for said measures as they could save the lives of many Filipinos.

“Hindi ako titigil na ipaglaban ang mga panukalang batas na ito dahil pinakaimportante sa lahat ang buhay ng bawat Pilipino. Huwag na nating hintayin na may iba pang sakuna o trahedya na mangyari,” said Go.

“Umaksyon na agad tayo para proteksyunan ang sambayanang Pilipino!” he concluded.