An award-winning public servant has pushed for the passage of a bill increasing the use of funds, which local government units or LGUs can use for disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction with “Typhoon Ruby” continuing to threaten Eastern Visayas.
A day before “Typhoon Ruby” makes landfall in Eastern Visayas on Saturday, Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian underscored the urgent need to broaden the options of the LGUs in the utilization of the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund or LDRRMF.
The Nationalist People’s Coalition or NPC congressman explained this prompted him to file “House Bill No. 5097”, which seeks to amend the “Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act” and aims to improve disaster preparedness measures taken by LGUs.
Gatchalian, who served as mayor of Valenzuela City from 2004 to 2013, added his bill also aims to improve to cover the construction of infrastructure crucial in reducing the effects of disasters.
The measure is set to include payment of obligations by the local government units (LGUs) for the reconstruction and repair of major infrastructure damaged by disasters, as well as payment of wages and benefits of appointed rescue and response personnel.
“The effects of disasters would be greatly mitigated and reduced if LGUs will have the necessary funds to provide local infrastructure projects designed to protect against natural disasters,” Gatchalian said.
“The after-effects of disasters will also be lessened if LGUs are given flexibility in providing for a swift reconstruction, repair, and rehabilitation of their infrastructure damaged by disasters,” he added.
Gatchalian also emphasized that LGUs, being on the forefront, need to be properly equipped to protect their constituents to prevent another disaster similar to the one caused by “Typhoon Yolanda” from happening.
Although “Typhoon Ruby”, with maximum sustained winds of 195 kph and heavy to intense rainfall, is seen to be weaker than “Typhoon Yolanda”, it will cause three to four-meter high storm surges, as stated in news reports.
“Typhoon Yolanda” reportedly brought seven-meter waves, destroying people’s shelters and killing 6,300.
“In the unfortunate event that disaster or calamity strikes, it is the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (LDRRMO) in the LGUs that are at the forefront of Mother Nature’s wrath in providing safety and protection for their constituents,” Gatchalian said.
“It’s about time that we give them the necessary funding for rescue operations,” he noted.
“House Bill 5097” also seeks to enable LDRRMOs to hire adequate rescue personnel who will also implement the LGUs’ disaster management programs. The salaries and benefits of the personnel will be funded by the LDRRMF.
Gatchalian is hopeful that “H.B. 5097” will better prepare LGUs to cope with disasters similar to what occurred on Nov. 8, 2013 when one of the world’s strongest typhoons (International name: Haiyan) destroyed a large part of Eastern, Central and Western Visayas and claimed over 6,000 lives.
Under Republic Act 10121, also known as the “Philippines Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act”, the calamity funds of LGUs has been converted into the LDRRMF, which may be used for projects on disaster preparedness and mitigation such as the purchase of rescue equipment, supplies, and medicine.
R.A. 10121 also aims to have the construction of infrastructure projects designed to protect against disasters charged to the LDRRMF. The projects have to be green-lit by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDDRMC).
“Unspent LDRRMF within the given year should also be reverted back to general fund within the next three years instead of the current five. It will be placed in a special trust fund supporting LDRRMC activities,” the solon explained.
“If it remains unconsumed after three years instead of five, it will again be returned to the general fund and be made available for social services by local Sanggunian,” he clarified.
“HB 5097” has been pending with the House committee on national defense and security since October. (Monica Cantilero)