Duterte again pushes for disaster resilience dep't, 'warns' of Batasan quake

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte added some color to his renewed push for the creation of a "department of disaster resilience," citing a supposed psychic's prediction that a major earthquake will emanate from fault lines directly under the Batasang Pambansa.

The Batasang Pambansa is where he, Congress, Cabinet members, and diplomats gather each year for his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

"I just heard that from a psychic that the first crack, when the Big One hits, would be right here in the center of this (place)," said Duterte on Monday, July 22, during his 4th SONA.

"That's what they say. The Philippines is so corrupt, so lousy that, if you kill all congressmen, senators, and the president, we will have a new day. So I pray that if the earthquake comes, it comes now, this moment. We're complete," he continued.

The "Big One" refers to a possible 7.2-magnitude earthquake should the West Valley fault, a major Luzon fault, move. The fault moves every 400 years. It last moved 361 years ago which means the next big quake could happen within our lifetimes.

Duterte's warning about the "Big One" was off-script. Before this, he had read out the part of his prepared speech about the disaster resilience department and impacts of natural calamities on Filipinos.

"I urge Congress to fast-track the passage of the administration version of this bill," said Duterte.

"The Philippine experience has shown that natural disasters are poverty creators. That is why we need to hasten the establishment of a department of disaster resilience so that this department will focus on the natural hazards and climate change," he said.

What's in the administration bill? Malacañang submitted its version of a bill creating the disaster resilience department on July 31, 2018, mere days after Duterte called for its passage in his SONA that year.

The Palace-backed bill creates a department solely focused on disaster management to replace the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), that some say is weak as it is merely a coordinating body.

The proposed department will be led by a disaster resilience secretary with the assistance of at least 4 undersecretaries. It will have the power to use alternative procurement methods during calamities like standby contracts, prearranged systems of procurement with preapproved list of contractors, prenegotiated contracts, advanced procurement contracts, and framework contracts.

This is designed to speed up response and rehabilitation efforts after a disaster or natural calamity. – Rappler.com


Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.