Duterte: ‘Sorry for not being around’

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    PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday apologized for not addressing the public right on Sunday immediately after Taal Volcano in Batangas spewed ash and showed intensified activities.

    He said he was in Davao City on Sunday and was unable to fly back because of the heavy presence of ashfall.

    “I’m sorry I was not around. I was in Davao but I was preparing to leave that night when I was informed that I could not make it because of the ash,” Duterte said during a situation briefing and distribution of relief assistance to displaced families held at the Batangas Provincial Sports Complex in Batangas City.

    Duterte arrived in Manila Monday morning.

    At the briefing in Batangas, Duterte also said he approved all recommendations made by the Cabinet, including the declaration of the Taal Island as a no-man’s land.

    Duterte said he was satisfied with the quick response of national government agencies and the Batangas government. He said among those that were immediately gave help were the social welfare and health departments.

    Among the recommendations was to declare the Volcano Island as a “no man’s land” or a permanent danger zone. Despite previous warnings against any settlement, some people continued to stay in the island to earn a living through fishing and farming.

    Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, “I strongly believe … recommend that we strictly implement the suggestion or recommendation that Taal Island will be declared no-man’s land, wag na pabalikin ang tao doon dahil kung merong more violent explosion, the people there will perish in that island.”

    The President said another recommendation was to have permanent and strong evacuation centers that can be used in case of calamities like that resulting from the Taal explosion.
    Duterte said he wants the permanent evacuation centers to have several and separate comfort room and shower rooms for men and women.

    The President also ordered the streamlining of processes to hasten the release of funds for the relief and rehabilitation efforts.

    Duterte said he would come out with an executive order directing the abbreviation of processes. He said he wants the processing period limited to two to three days and the approving agencies involved in the release of funds limited to a few offices.

    Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said the government has enough funds that can be tapped for relief and rehabilitation efforts.