February 20, 2017
Legarda Wants More Proactive, 24/7 Disaster Mgmt Office
Senator Loren Legarda today urged the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) to be more proactive not only in addressing the needs of local government units (LGUs) that have been affected by disasters but also in ensuring that these communities are prepared even before a calamity strikes.
Legarda made the statement during the organizational meeting of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Public Expenditures (JCOCPE) at the Senate where the committee discussed the utilization of the Quick Response Fund (QRF) and NDRRM Fund for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017 by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and by the Office of Civil Defense (OCD).
"As the central agency responsible for the welfare of our people before, during and after disasters, the NDRRMC should be able to know all information not only in relation to programs and funds in the government agencies but more importantly what is happening on the ground," said Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance and Co-chair of the JCOCPE.
"The NDRRMC should establish 24/7 desks in every region to coordinate with agencies of government in addressing the needs of cities and municipalities affected by natural hazards. Moreover, the OCD and NDRRMC website should show, in real-time, all requests for funding and their status for easy monitoring," she added.
Legarda also renewed her call for the immediate release of QRF to affected communities, stressing that "any response that is slow defeats the purpose of the fund to quickly address the needs of the people in times of disasters."
In line with this, the Committee adopted the motion of Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon for the QRF to be released within three days after a calamity strikes and it should be exempted from the Commission on Audit (COA) rule that previous releases should be first liquidated before a new request is granted.
Legarda also said that the NDRRMC should shorten to 14-25 days the processing of requests by LGUs and agencies, in contrast to current experience of requests still pending even after the lapse of two to three months.
"The process in accessing and releasing both the QRF and the NDRRM Fund must be hastened and shortened; while agencies and LGUs should also immediately and efficiently use these resources and complete the necessary liquidation procedures afterwards so that we have an efficient and effective bureaucracy. It is also important that LGUs are proactive in dealing with natural hazards by ensuring that they implement all environmental laws, including the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, the Climate Change Act, and the NDRRM Act, to build the resilience of their communities," she said.
Legarda also clarified that while in the 2017 budget, only the DSWD, DPWH, OCD and the National Electrification Administration (NEA) have QRF in their respective budget, all other agencies of government can access assistance under the NDRRM Fund.
The Senator explained that such setup was agreed upon during the budget deliberations last year in line with the Department of Budget and Management's (DBM) one fund concept and also because there were agencies that did not utilize their QRF in previous years.
Legarda already requested the DBM to include the Department of Education (DepED), the Department of Agriculture (DA), and the Department of Health (DOH) among agencies with QRF line items in their budget for 2018.
She also asked the DBM and concerned government agencies to embark on a massive information, education and communication (IEC) campaign on the QRF and NDRRM Fund so that all LGUs know how to access these funds.
"As one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world with a total of 130 million affected people over the past twenty (20) years according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, it is imperative that all concerned agencies utilize their existing resources immediately and efficiently to enable devastated communities to bounce back and build back better in the shortest time possible," Legarda concluded.
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