Senator Bam Aquino pushed for a maximum response time of 24 hours following natural calamities, saying that it “currently takes three to four days for the national government to respond [to disasters].”
He likewise called for a “higher level of preparedness… [from government],” as he spoke at the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, held at the Senate on Monday morning.
“What do we need to increase efficiency and capacity? Regional relief depots? Better search and rescue vehicles and equipment? Pre-positioned military and police? Disaster-proof evacuation centers? Given that climate change is upon us and disasters are sure to hit the country again next year, even our measures for assessing disaster preparedness need to change.”
“The best way to honor our countrymen who had passed away is to make sure that we are more responsive the next time disaster strikes,” Sen. Aquino stressed.
The senator also indicated his support for moves to create a department for disaster relief and rehabilitation, replacing the existing National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
He also emphasized that greater focus needs to be placed on ensuring tighter coordination between the national government and local government units.
“Miscommunication severely hampers our ability to respond quickly to crisis situations. If we work more closely together, we will be better able to respond to the needs on the ground,” Sen. Aquino pointed out.
SUPPORT FOR PRIVATE SECTOR REHABILITATION PUSHED
Sen. Aquino also pushed for greater support for rehabilitation efforts of the private sector, citing that “markets are alive [and] vibrant” even in disaster-stricken towns.
While on a ground assessment in Guiuan in Easter Samar and in Tacloban City, Palo, and Tanauan in Leyte on Sunday, the senator observed that most entrepreneurs have been relying on loan sharks—what is locally known as“five-six”—to finance their rehabilitation efforts.
“Equally important in rebuilding public infrastructure is seeing how we can rehabilitate the private sector. We all know that ‘five-six’ bears excessively high interest rates. We need to explore long-term loans, low-interest loans, microfinance loans to help micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs get back on their feet.”
He cited a positive observation by a representative from the international organization UNICEF, which said that it took the Philippines only “ten to fifteen days to begin rebuilding” after the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda, versus the eight weeks that it took markets to open in other countries that were severely hit by natural disasters.
“The Filipino spirit is indeed resilient. As government, we need to honor that spirit by providing more support to our countrymen.”