Press Release
November 24, 2015


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Tuesday said that if elected president, she will appoint a cabinet member whose only task is to lead efforts to prevent, mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from the impacts of natural disasters and climate change.

Santiago, co-author of R.A. No. 10121, or "The Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act of 2010," said that the absence of a single focal DRRM authority in the Philippines has caused confusion in determining and assigning responsibility.

"As president, I will lead the creation of an independent DRRM agency to enhance the capacity of government and communities to cope from the negative impacts of an extreme event or natural hazard," the senator said.

Santiago's speech was read by her sister, former Higher Education Commissioner Nenalyn Defensor at a presidential forum on disaster risk management and climate change adaptation from all over the country at a presidential forum inside the University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City.

The Office of Civil Defense, a bureau within the Department of National Defense, acts as the main coordinator of DRRM implementation at present. But Santiago said the agency's structure and resources are insufficient to properly carry out the function.

The agency Santiago envisions has an organizational structure that will combine climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction functions, as well as the ability to coordinate and augment DRRM program implementation.

It will also have knowledge management capacity, adequate manpower, sufficient resources, and authority to administer funds and implement emergency procurement for effective disaster preparedness, timely disaster response, and early recovery.

"I shall appoint a Cabinet-level official as head of the independent DRRM agency to ensure that he or she has the requisite authority to orchestrate the different actors, policies and programs involved in DRRM," Santiago said.

The senator said her proposal will address the problem of weak disaster risk governance cited in the "sunset review" of R.A. No. 10121, which is a product of consultations with stakeholders on the accomplishments and impact of the law.

"There is an urgent need to streamline disaster risk governance through institutional change, so as to clarify the mandate and accountability of government agencies for DRRM," Santiago said.

She cited the World Risk Index released by the United Nations University, which in 2014 ranked the Philippines as the second most at-risk and third most vulnerable out of 171 countries in the world.

Santiago's statements also come weeks after the second anniversary of super typhoon Yolanda, which claimed some 6,300 lives and resulted in damages amounting to P89.6 billion, mostly in coastal towns in the Visayas.

The senator has filed several bills in response to Yolanda, including Senate Bill No. 2446, or the "Children's Emergency Relief and Protection Act"; SBN 2132, or the "Coastal Climate Change Adaptation Act"; and SBN 2919, or the "First Responder Innovation and Support Act."

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