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‘Dapat one-step ahead tayo,’ stresses Bong Go as he renews call to prioritize disaster resiliency measures in the wake of ‘Agaton’ devastation

PASAY CITY -- As massive flooding and landslides brought by the Tropical Storm “Agaton” wiped out villages and left hundreds of thousands in Visayas and Mindanao homeless, Senator Christopher Bong Go once again highlighted the stark need to prioritize enhancements of disaster resiliency measures in the country.

The senator, who has been steadily delivering aid to disaster-hit communities across the country in the past years, shared how he has personally witnessed the heartrending plight of affected residents who have lost their life's work and their loved ones to calamities and natural disasters in a flash.

More recently, he and President Rodrigo Duterte visited Western Leyte Provincial Hospital (WLPH) in Baybay City on April 15, where they checked on Steven Lumanta, a boy who had to celebrate his 12th birthday knowing that only his younger sibling is left in his family after landslides in the city triggered by Agaton buried dozens, including his parents, under mud and debris.

Since Agaton made its first landfall in Guiuan, Eastern Samar on April 10, the total fatalities reported in areas hit by the tropical storm climbed to 167, of which 151 came from Eastern Visayas alone, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council on April 16. The landslides in Abuyog town and Baybay City in Leyte particularly proved fatal as it devastated farming and fishing communities and completely wiped out houses, transforming the landscape.

Affected individuals from Bicol region, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, Region 12, Caraga, and BARMM have also reached 1,939,514 while 348,359 have been displaced and forced to seek shelter at evacuation centers.

This came just four months after Typhoon "Odette" cut a deathly swath across the country, also particularly devastating Visayas and Mindanao.

In line with this, Go once again stressed that while natural disasters cannot be avoided, especially as the Philippines is among the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate impacts, what the government can do is to further strengthen disaster preparedness, reduce casualties, and hasten the victims' recovery with measures such as Senate Bill No. 205 and SBN 1228.

SBN 205 or the proposed “Disaster Resilience Act” was filed by Go back in 2019 to streamline the country’s disaster preparedness mechanisms by establishing a Department of Disaster Resilience. If created, DDR will provide a clear chain of command and more proactive and holistic approach in managing disasters and other emergency situations.

"I will not lose hope. Patuloy akong mananawagan. Maybe, at the proper time, ay maipapasa na rin ito dahil kailangan talaga natin ng cabinet-level na secretary [...] para mas mabilis 'yung koordinasyon between the national government agencies and local government offices… Dapat one-step ahead tayo kung mayroong paparating na mga kalamidad at sakuna," Go earlier stressed.

The DDR will bring together all essential functions and mandates currently scattered among various disaster-related agencies. To support its functions and responsibilities, SBN 205 notably provides for the creation of 1) an Integrated Disaster Resilience Information System which will serve as a database of all relevant disaster risk reduction and climate change information; 2) a Humanitarian Assistance Action Center, a one-stop shop for the processing and release of goods, equipment and services to guarantee the timely delivery of assistance to disaster-stricken areas; 3) National Disaster Operations Center and Alternative Command and Control Centers to monitor, manage and respond to disasters; and 4) a Disaster Resilience Research and Training Institute which will offer training and collect and share information to improve the country’s resilience.

Go also renewed his call for the passage of SBN 1228, which will mandate the establishment of safe and properly equipped evacuation centers in every municipality, city and province across the Philippines. The bill was also filed by the senator in 2019 as he lamented that disaster victims are usually housed in barangay centers, schools, or basketball courts, which are not suitable as temporary shelters.

Both bills are currently pending in the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation.

Meanwhile, Duterte and Go, together with all concerned agencies of government, worked nonstop to visit areas ravaged by Agaton even during the Holy Week.

On Black Saturday, April 16, they conducted an aerial inspection of storm-hit areas in Pontevedra, Capiz. They proceeded to Roxas City where they led the groundbreaking of the Capiz Multipurpose Evacuation and Convention Center in Pueblo de Panay and visited the new five-story Roxas Memorial Provincial Hospital in Barangay Lanot, both of which Go pushed to be funded as Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance.

Afterwards, they led the distribution of aid for the victims staying at the Pontevedra Elementary School.

The previous day, on Good Friday, the President and Go also conducted an aerial inspection of Baybay City and Abuyog town in Leyte, relief activity for the injured victims at WLPH, and a situational briefing with the Baybay City officials. They also personally handed out assistance to the affected residents at the Baybay City Senior High School. (OSBG)

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Kate Shiene Austria

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Information Officer III under the Creative and Production Services Division of the Philippine Information Agency. 

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