The Senate buckles down to work as it resumes session tomorrow, Monday, after a month-long break.

“Coming from a long break when devastating typhoons, earthquakes and the Taal eruption struck the country successively, we will do our best to pass vital legislation, foremost of which is the Department of Disaster Resilience Act of 2019 filed by at least ten senators,” Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri said.

“Alert Level 4 remains since it was raised last week as Taal rumbled to life. Its steam, sulfuric ash and temblors forced thousands of people to evacuate to the nearest towns many thought were safe. Now, those same towns need to be evacuated also. The risks to life, health and damage to livelihoods are mind-boggling, especially because, the severely damaged areas are rich croplands, pastureland, aquafisheries and tourist destinations,” Zubiri explained.

“We laud the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) for its diligent monitoring of Taal and warning us since last year when it issued Alert Level 1. The same appreciation goes to scientists in PAGASA. But, we need to create an agency that is quick-footed, scientific, focused and well-equipped. The creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience will ensure a more efficient, coordinated, and complete system of disaster management–from risk assessment to emergency response right down to reintegration assistance and rehabilitation. The Office of Civil Defense is stretched to the limit. We now realize that to fully utilize their skills, capacities and leadership, the creation of an appropriate government agency is at hand,” Zubiri said.

Typhoon Ursula displaced nearly 85,000 Filipinos in the Visayas on Christmas eve, killing at least 50 people and wreaking heavy damage to properties and livelihoods in its path.

“Equally grave situations are being experienced by areas hit successively by earthquakes in Mindanao. The resources and planning that must go into rehabilitation and resettlement of our fellow Filipinos have multiplied greatly, so must government response improve greatly. Our response should be led by a Department unhampered by bureaucratic red tape which no one intentionally wants,” Zubiri stressed.

Zubiri also called for the passage of the National Hazard Mapping Act of 2019.

“Once enacted, resources can be directed to concerned agencies for the identification of high risk areas and pinpoint possibilities of occurrence, magnitude, and location of potential earthquakes, volcanic activity, and other natural hazards,” Zubiri said. “Likewise, SBN 902 (Lapid) and SBN 527 (Zubiri) mandates Local Government Units to implement Multi-Hazard and Flood Hazard Mapping and use them well in their planning, disaster management and emergency response.”

“We cannot stop natural calamities, but we can prepare for them, and with disaster preparedness and resiliency, we can minimize losses in terms of human lives and properties. Let us not wait for the next one to hit before we take action. Three bills also tackle the gargantuan need for decent, sanitary and secure temporary shelters and evacuation centers filed by Senators Gatchalian, Recto and Bong Go,” he added.

The Senate is also set to move on several priority measures such as the proposed Separate Facility for Heinous Crimes Inmates (approved on Third Reading, pending in the House of Representatives), Anti-Terrorism Act (SBN 1083, pending Second Reading), the Philippine High School for Sports Act (SBN 1086, pending Second Reading), Upgrading the Salary Grade Level of Teachers (SBN 131, pending in the Committee), the Teaching Supplies Allowance Act (SBN 1092, pending Second Reading), Solo Parents Welfare Act (SBN 164, pending in the Committee), Security of Tenure Act (SBN 806, pending in the Committee), Coconut Farmers & Industry Development Act (SBN 31, pending comments by the Department of Finance), Creation of A Philippine Water Commission (SBN 20, 44, 195, and 208 pending in the Committee), the Potable Water Supply for every Barangay Act (SBN 103, pending in the Committee), and the Anti-Single Use Plastic Act (SBN 40, 333 and 557), among others.

“The legislative table is full at any time, but, more so when natural and man-made calamities strike the whole country and our fellow Filipinos suffer the wrath of nature to no one’s liking,” Zubiri concluded.