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A new task force for disasters will operate similarly to FEMA: Palace

According to Malacanang, the newly established Disaster Response and Crisis Management Task Force (DRCMTF) would close the vacuum in the Philippines’ disaster response framework, which now lacks a single organization devoted only to disaster planning and response.

The new task force would perform the same duties as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the United States, which coordinates activities related to emergency preparedness, civil defense, disaster mitigation, and disaster response, among other things, according to a statement from the Presidential Communications Office (PCO).

On April 30, Marcos issued Executive Order 24, establishing the Disaster Response and Crisis Management Task Force to establish “clear unity of command to lead the government’s efforts in confronting challenges brought about by natural disasters through evidence-driven and science-based approach in crisis management.”

The task group will be representatives from the Office of the Executive Secretary, the Office of Civil Defense, the Departments of National Defense, Interior and Local Government, Social Welfare, Health, Trade and Industry, Science and Technology, Public Works, and Transportation.

The PCO stated, “The EO is also merely a transitional mechanism while we await the passage of a law that will establish a permanent agency with duties similar to those of the US FEMA.”

The PCO clarified that a task force is established instead of an office because the latter would call for a law to be passed and would need to be evaluated and approved by the Department of Budget and Management.

It was stated that the DRCMTF would utilize the member agencies’ core competencies, including their integrated Quick Response Funds (QRFs), avoiding the need to establish a new office, which would be “duplicative and inconsistent with the right-sizing policy of the administration.”

According to the PCO, the task force would also direct the federal government’s coordinated preparedness and reaction to disasters and swiftly provide accessible and coordinated relief services to the affected populations.

The task force will also call a meeting of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and recommend a state of calamity declaration, lifting, and distribution of the council’s fund.

Along with combining government efforts, crisis management must take a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral strategy.

The PCO emphasized that one of the duties of the DRCMTF is to have a calibrated and graduated national disaster mobilization system, which includes a pre-disaster risk assessment (PDRA) as a decision-making tool.

The PDRA is a procedure for determining a hazard’s level of risk based on the area’s exposure and vulnerability.

According to the PCO, the task force will also set up Quick Response Groups (QRGs) to support local and regional disaster risk reduction and management councils (DRRMCs) during, prior to, or in anticipation of the impending effect of a disaster.

The president will choose the task force’s chairperson and vice chairperson from among its members, and the member agencies will each appoint a senior official to serve as their representative on the task force.

The President’s Office will be the DRCMTF’s parent organization.

According to the PCO, the chairperson would oversee and coordinate the efforts of national government agencies and instrumentalities to prepare for and respond to disasters, particularly in the affected areas. She would also make sure that presidential orders and directives about disaster risk reduction and management were carried out.

The chairperson is also permitted to request support and assistance from any government agency or instrumentality in carrying out his or her duties under EO 24 and shall be in direct contact with the President at all times, particularly during emergencies, natural disasters, and other contingencies that may call for prompt and timely coordination.

The EO states that the funding will come from the contingency fund, current allocations of the task force’s member agencies, where appropriate, and other funding sources determined by the Department of Budget and Management.

The PCO stated that with the introduction of the DRCMTF, only the first pillar of the NDRRMC, disaster prevention and mitigation, will remain with the council.

On the other hand, EO 120 (s. 2020) was repealed to return the disaster rehabilitation and recovery responsibilities from the Build Back Better Task Force to the NDRRMC and prevent confusion over the NDRRMC’s authority.

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