Solons seek to regulate international assistance
LAWMAKERS are proposing a measure that seeks to address some legal and regulatory issues with regard to international relief assistance during disasters.
Reps. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City) and Maximo Rodriguez Jr. (Party-list, Abante Mindanao), authors of House Bill 6438, cited the issues related to the entry and operation of international disaster relief assistance, especially in the relief and initial recovery period.
The bill, to be known as the “International Disaster Relief and Initial Recovery Assistance Act” seeks to set procedures, roles and responsibilities related to the facilitation and regulation of international disaster assistance provided to the Philippines in the event of any disaster.
Rodriguez said the country must be prepared for the possibility that they may one day require international assistance during a disaster.
“If such an event occurs, global experience shows that an affected state will benefit from a clear legal framework for the entry and coordination of international humanitarian assistance, which balances safeguards for public security and safety against the urgent needs of those affected by disasters,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said the government will also find it easier to facilitate the speedy transition of humanitarian aid destined for other states affected by disasters, if the legal frameworks are already in place.
Rodriguez said issues related to legal entry and operations often include delays in the entry of international humanitarian personnel, goods and equipment due to the requirements of customs and immigration laws which are not adapted to a situation of urgency.
“Some of the problems are the imposition duties, tolls and taxes on relief items and activities, granting legal recognition of foreign qualifications for specialized professional personnel and difficulties in granting legal recognition for foreign humanitarian organization, which means that they may not be able to open bank accounts, hire local staff, lease premises, or other legal actions necessary for efficient in-country assistance,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said the other issues to be addressed are the quality and coordination of international relief which may include the importation of unnecessary or inappropriate relief items, failure to coordinate with domestic authorities and other relief providers, use of inadequately trained personnel and failure to consult with beneficiaries and culturally unacceptable behavior.
Under the bill, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) shall make a determination, based on initial estimates, as to whether domestic capabilities are likely to be sufficient to attend the needs of affected persons for disaster relief and initial recovery assistance.
International donations received by the government of the Philippines for the purposes of disaster relief and initial recovery assistance shall be subjected to audit by the Commission on Audit (CoA) not later than six months after the termination of the international disaster relief period or the international initial recovery period. The results of these audits shall be made available to the public.