Lawmakers push for passage of disaster-related bills

Disaster risk reduction measures are currently stalled in both houses of Congress

Rappler.com

2:33:51am June 16, 2015

2:33:51am June 16, 2015

FILE PHOTO. Residents walk past high waves brought about by strong winds as it pound the seawall, hours before Typhoon Hagupit passes near the city of Legazpi on December 7, 2014. Typhoon Hagupit tore apart homes and sent waves crashing through coastal communities across the eastern Philippines, creating more misery for millions following a barrage of deadly disasters. AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE

FILE PHOTO. Residents walk past high waves brought about by strong winds as it pound the seawall, hours before Typhoon Hagupit passes near the city of Legazpi on December 7, 2014. Typhoon Hagupit tore apart homes and sent waves crashing through coastal communities across the eastern Philippines, creating more misery for millions following a barrage of deadly disasters. AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE

MANILA, Philippines - With earthquake preparedeness on everyone's mind after the devastating Nepal earthquake, Philippine legislators are pushing for the passage of laws to strengthen the country's capability to prepare for disasters. 

On June 9, Valenzuela City congressman Sherwin Gatchalian filed a bill that will mandate the construction of evacuation centers in every city and municipality in the country, especially in vulnerable areas. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, on the other hand, has urged the Senate to pass her disaster-related bills, including the National Flood Insurance bill and Flood Recovery bill.

Up to standard

According to a press statement released June 14, Gatchalian’s bill, House Bill No. 5867 or the “Evacuation Center Act," will ensure that all evacuation centers comply with the National Building Code and are able to withstand super typhoons with windspeeds of up to 320 kilometers per hour and 7.2 magnitude earthquakes. The centers should also be equipped with sleeping areas, kitchens, clinics and recretation centers. 

Gatchalian pointed out that the establishment of permanent and viable evacuation centers does not only address the common issues of evacuees such as congestion and lack of facilities, but will also “enhance the delivery of social calamities and help minimize the loss of lives.” It will also minimize the use of schools as evacuation centers, Gatchalian added.   

Stalled flood laws

Meanwhile Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago lamented in a statement released on Sunday June 13, that at least 5 of her disaster-related bills remain stuck at the committee level.

WAITING GAME.Scene during a flash flood along Taft Avenue in Manila. June 13, 2013. Photo by Arcel Cometa

WAITING GAME.Scene during a flash flood along Taft Avenue in Manila. June 13, 2013. Photo by Arcel Cometa

Senate Bill (SB) No. 394 or the Flood Recovery Fund bill, for one, was filed in July 2013. It seeks to “provide financial assistance in the form of no-interest loans to those adversely affected by [floods]” in order to aid victims who “need additional resources outside of their usual income,” according to the bill’s explanatory note.

SB No. 1576 or the National Flood and Research Bill, filed on September 2013, intends to create an Office of Flood Research and Policy to determine the most ideal methods to predict, prevent, and mitigate the effects of flooding.

Her Culvert Safety bill, or SB No. 1724, seeks to ensure that culverts or open sewers are “appropriately covered and posted with warning signs to prevent people, especially children, from falling into them during floods,” according to the press release.

More recently, Santiago’s SB No. 2376 was filed in September 2014, with the intention of enforcing mandatory basic swimming lessons in primary schools to prepare children against floods. According to a study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), drowning is the second leading cause of death among Filipino children aged 14 years and below.

SB No. 2561, or the National Flood Insurance Bill, hopes to establish a National Flood Insurance Program, which, according to its explanatory note, will “provide appropriate protection to homeowners, small business owners, and farmers against the perils of flood losses.” Filed last January, it too remains at the committee level.

Youth participation

Meanwhile, on June 9, the Senate passed SB No. 2789 or the Youth Participation in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management. The bill, co-authored by Santiago and sponsored by Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, includes youth organizations in disaster risk reduction and management programs of the government, with the chairman of the National Youth Commission included as a member of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). - Frances Sayson/Rappler.com