Improved disaster preparedness and response before, during and after typhoon Ruby

16 December 2014

Good afternoon, Mr. President and my dear colleagues.

Mr. President, I have stood many times here in the past year to draw attention to our shortcomings in our response to the grave national emergency situation presented to us by supertyphoon Yolanda in November 2013.

One year after, based on all the efforts of government that we have seen implemented before, during and after typhoon Ruby—which was of an initial magnitude that portended catastrophe of a scale similar to Yolanda—it is a with a great deal of satisfaction and relief that I rise to speak of our response to Typhoon Ruby.

From the evacuation efforts—observed by the United Nations as “one of the largest peacetime evacuations in history”—to the pre-positioning of goods, equipment and security and law enforcement personnel, to the coordination between the national and local governments of services and information, to the parallel efforts of the private sector and even international agencies and offices, we can say with pride that we have done a much better job this time.

Our weather forecasting has also been cited for its accuracy and reliability, with one observer commenting that it is “one positive story that should give Filipinos a measure of pride”, as our PAGASA was deemed to have correctly predicted the path of typhoon Ruby.

Now, government should redouble our efforts on the rehabilitation of the lives and properties of our citizens, as well as our public infrastructure, which have collectively sustained P3.3B worth of damages, per latest assessment of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

As the situation begins to normalize, we in government have to make sure that we document and record all the DRRM programs, plans and strategies and other best practices that were utilized by the national and local governments and other sectors and that were proven effective in preventing and mitigating loss of life and property in our communities. We must do this especially in relation to our experience before, during and after the onslaught of typhoons Ruby and Yolanda, including significant problem areas and other important concerns.

It is for this particular purpose that I have filed Senate Resolution No. 1056.

In our continuing quest not only for a comprehensive, but an effective and efficient disaster risk reduction, management and response plan, in accordance with Republic Act No. 10121, both the Executive Branch and Congress should consult to codify and institutionalize these effective programs, best practices, and the like, on both national and local levels, in order to give them the character of consistency or flexible permanence, akin to “standard operating procedures” Also, we must ensure their continued and systematic application and implementation in the event of occurrence of other hazards in future, and even in spite of changes in political leadership.

All this can be considered and included by the NDRRMC and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in their Annual Report to the President and to Congress, as mandated by RA No. 10121.

On our part, Congress is also tasked by law to carry out this very urgent objective. Coincidentally, our Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act is due for its “sunset review” this coming year 2015, as provided under RA 10121. So, in this regard, this representation respectfully exhorts not only the Congressional Oversight Committee, and the proper Senate Committee, but all my colleagues in this Chamber as well, to join in this effort and to conduct the mandated “systematic evaluation” for this specific purpose.

Most important of all, we in Congress, especially in the Senate, owe it to the People to help build a culture and mentality of preparedness and resilience amongst us, in order to ensure the safety and continued survival of our citizenry, our communities and our nation. This must be done in the face of the threats presented by global warming and the worsening effects of the changes in our climate.

Let us also not forget that, one year after Yolanda, many of its victims still live in tent cities and temporary shelters. The rebuilding of damaged infrastructure still has a long way to go and we must not be distracted by self-congratulations from that critical task still awaiting completion.

Lastly, I take this opportunity to thank and commend all our kababayans and everyone from all over the world, who have once again rendered selfless assistance and service to our citizens in this time of great need.

May God always bless our country. Thank you, Mr. President.