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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, November 8, 2018
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Anticipating disaster

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Malacañang submitted to Congress on Tuesday its version of the bill seeking to create a new department that will oversee efforts on disaster risk management and emergency response. The new agency is expected to replace the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council that is currently mandated with policymaking, coordination, integration, supervision, monitoring and evaluation functions in response to disasters in the country.

Geologist and executive director of the UP Resilience Institute and NOAH Center Mahar Lagmay is hopeful that the new Department of Disaster Management can focus on anticipatory planning to reduce communities’ vulnerabilities in the face of calamity.

“We need a truly empowered department characterized by a unity of command, science-based approach and full-time focus on natural hazards and disasters, and the wherewithal to take charge of the disaster risk reduction; preparedness and response; with better recovery and faster rehabilitation,” Lagmay said.

He added that “probabilistic risk assessment,” which involves the depiction of multiple scenarios of every hazard, is a must in every city and municipality and cascaded down to the barangay level. These scenarios should include hazards that are bigger than what has been experienced by residents in the past to account for the impacts of climate change which are projected to increase in magnitude and frequency.

Lagmay also hopes that other aspects of disaster and emergency management can be improved under the proposed department, specifically the preparedness pillar, response pillar, and reconstruction and rehabilitation pillar. However, he said these pillars will have to be based on the outcome of the probabilistic risk assessment, which he hopes the new law will insist on, because the country can no longer rely on the old system of disaster risk reduction efforts. He believes that a Department of Disaster Management must focus on anticipatory planning.

The Philippines that ranked third on the World Risk Index in 2016 due to its vulnerability to disaster risk needs a better preparation and response mechanism to disasters and while the creation of a new department for disaster risk management and emergency response isn’t exactly a novel solution, it could provide a much needed boost to our country’s disaster resiliency if it is crafted and implemented properly.

A country with the Philippines unique location and geography knows it cannot stop natural disasters and calamities from threatening its communities. Anticipating disasters is easy but putting in the work that is necessary to protect everyone from mortal harm will spell the difference between this new Department of Disaster Management and its predecessors. Hopefully, the people behind this new department can do a better job at anticipating disasters than other lawmakers and bureaucrats who failed to anticipate the disaster caused by other well-meaning but hastily-crafted and poorly implemented laws that governments shouldn’t be known for.*


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