Urip Hudiono, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The government plans to set up a nationwide network of depots for emergency relief supplies and form a new national agency tasked with managing natural disasters in the country.
The "disaster logistics depots" will be established in each provincial capital, Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie said. They will be stockpiled with enough food and medicine supplies to handle the occurrence of a natural disaster in each region.
The depots will also be supplied with equipment and transportation vehicles to ensure the quick and effective distribution of supplies to disaster victims during emergency relief efforts.
"This is part of our effort to improve disaster management in the country, by `regionalizing' it," Aburizal told reporters after a meeting Monday with Vice President Jusuf Kalla and National Coordination Agency chief Syamsul Maarif.
"The plan for the logistics depots is to overcome logistics and transportation problems in relief situations. These are areas which have hampered the quick mitigation of disasters in the past," Aburizal said.
The government expects the establishment of logistics depots to make future relief efforts more efficient and avoid the high costs associated with "sending out Hercules planes from Jakarta just to ship supplies of instant noodles," Aburizal said. Managed as a network, the depots could support each other, with those in the vicinity of a disaster-affected region serving as the nearest back-up facility.
However, he declined to mention how much the establishment of the network of logistics depots would cost, or when operations would commence.
The government has allocated Rp 2 trillion (US$219 million) for disaster mitigation purposes in this year's state budget, with several disaster-affected regions already proposing an additional Rp 2.7 trillion in funds. The government also plans to set up a nationwide early warning system throughout the country by 2008.
A string of disasters have hit the country in recent years. The Coordinating Ministry Office has cited floods as the most frequently occurring disaster, while earthquakes cause the most human casualties and fires cause the greatest material losses.
Aburizal said the depots will be managed locally in each region, but will remain under the auspices of the central government -- in this case, the new National Disaster Management Agency that will be formed.
"We are still working out who will manage the facilities. It may either be the local administration, or the local military," he said.
Aburizal also said the depots would be separate from the rice stockpile depots managed by the National Logistics Agency, although they may work in cooperation.
Aburizal said the government expects the new National Disaster Management Agency to be formed within 6 months, as required by a new law on disaster management that the House of Representatives passed in March. However, the government is still discussing how it will replace the existing National Coordination Board (Bakornas) and National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas).