NDRRMC wants Luzon under state of calamity

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    Flooding in Cagayan. (Photo Office of Sen. Bong Go)

    THE National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council yesterday recommended that President Duterte place the entire Luzon under a state of calamity because of the effects of typhoons “Ulysses,” “Rolly,” and “Quinta” that hit the country this month.

    NDRRMC executive director Ricardo Jalad said the recommendation was agreed on by NDRRMC member-agencies yesterday during a meeting presided by the NDRRMC chairman, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

    Jalad said the NDRRMC recommendation has been received by Malacañang.

    It was an upgrade of last week’s NDRRMC recommendation to place just three regions — Calabarzon, Mimaropa, and Bicol — under a state of calamity because of typhoons Quinta and Rolly.

    Some local government units have declared states of calamity in their areas due to the three typhoons, including Cagayan and Isabela which were severely flooded by Ulysses.

    If approved by the President, Jalad said, the measure would allow all LGUs in Luzon to access calamity funds to respond to the effects of the three typhoons.

    “It gives power to the LGUs to utilize their funds. We can also implement price freeze, it’s going to be the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) who will be in charge,” said Jalad.

    “Likewise, it empowers LGUs, the municipalities and cities that were not affected to access their own funds in helping the LGUs that were affected,” he added.

    Jalad described the damage caused by the three typhoons as “massive.” He said Rolly brought substantial damage to both agriculture and infrastructure in Catanduanes, Albay, and Camarines provinces.

    Jalad said Ulysses brought massive flooding in Cagayan and Isabela. He said floods in the provinces are receding but slowly.

    Reports from the NDRRMC said Ulysses has so far claimed 67 lives and affected 523,871 families or some 2.07 million individuals. The cost of damage to both infrastructure and agriculture was placed P2.6 billion as of yesterday.

    Rolly, a super typhoon, left 25 people dead and P17.8 billion in damage to agriculture. It damaged or destroyed about 170,770 houses.

    Quinta killed 27 persons and affected 209,204 families (888,375 persons). It left a damage of about P4.2 billion to agriculture and infrastructure.

    “It was also agreed during the meeting to convene a technical working group of the joint prevention, mitigation, and preparedness clusters of the NDRRMC to assess the current dam management,” Jalad said.

    During the meeting, Jalad said, Lorenzana instructed the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) “to revisit its historical data to strengthen warnings beforehand.”

    “The chairperson raised various concerns to different agencies. Among other matters discussed were the provision of assistance to the affected farmers and fisher folk, road clearing, shelter requirements, and other recovery interventions,” Jalad also said.

    Officials said flooding in Cagayan and Isabela continue to recede.

    “Right now, floodwaters are receding,” said Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba , adding that the water level at the overflowed Cagayan River improved at 8.3 meters as of yesterday noon, from 13.1 meters last Sunday.

    “Our national highway is already passable,” Mamba also said, adding however that secondary roads leading to some towns and barangays remain not passable to vehicles because of floods.

    Mamba said search, rescue and retrieval operations have been halted because of the improved situation. He said those who remain in their flooded houses are being given relief supplies.

    “We no longer have rescue operations as of now. What we are doing now is relief operation… We’re bringing relief relief goods in areas that we have yet to reach,” said Mamba.

    Mamba said the situation in the province is no longer as serious as three days ago.

    “We could use the national highway now from Tuguegarao up to Aparri and at this point in time, we can now give relief goods by land,” said Mamba. The national highway is parallel to the Cagayan River.

    Mamba said areas remain isolated due to flooding and residents are being given relief goods through military helicopters.

    Mamba said he hopes floods would fully subside in the next couple of days “so that our secondary roads will be passable.”

    “We expect that in the next two days, if there will be no rains, the flooding will completely recede and by next week, we could clear all the debris with the help of DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) and even our private contractors,” he said.

    Mamba said the province remain without electricity. He said electric officials are checking if they can restore electricity in some areas “because we are under water for a long long time.”

    In Isabela, Mayor Hilario Paguitan of Sta. Maria town said, “Some areas are still under water but we’re expecting it to fully subside soon. Floodwaters are subsiding slowly… This is one of the worst (flooding) situation in our town.” Due to improved situation, Paguitan said, many evacuees have been sent home.

    Quirino Gov. Dakila Carlo Cua said flooding in the province has substantially receded. “Our bridges and main thoroughfares are already passable.”

    “Most of our evacuees have returned to their homes… There is a small number of evacuees left at the evacuation centers, these are the people whose houses were severely affected,” said Cua.

    He said two towns lost electricity during Ulysses but said power in the two towns is almost fully restored as of yesterday. “Our telecommunication is also back to normal also,” Cua also said.

    Cua said teams from the provinces have been dispatched to Cagayan and Isabela to help in debris and relief operations.

    “They plan to stay there for six days. They brought with them rubber boats, banca and relief goods which will be distributed to those needing them,” said Cua.

    Maj. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, commander of the AFP Northern Luzon Command, said the military’s focus shifted from search, rescue and retrieval operations to relief operations yesterday.

    “What we’re focusing on right now is distribution of relief goods, airdropping of relief goods for people in isolated barangays,” Burgos said.

    “There are still areas that are flooded but its no longer as severe as before… But you can no longer see people on the rooftops of their residence… Though they are still isolated, we are giving them food through air,” added Burgos.

    Isabela Rep. Faustino Dy V, who represents the sixth district, appealed for immediate aid for the province and asked the House leadership “to consider the needs of Isabela and other hard-hit provinces as it hammers out the final provisions of the 2021 General Appropriations Act.”

    Aerial shot in of the flooding in Isabela (Photo from PNA)

    “We hope allocations can be earmarked so that we will be able to help our kababayan in the North rebuild, recover, and rebound from the damage caused by typhoon Ulysses,” he said, noting that in Isabela alone, close to 55,000 families from 322 barangays were affected by Ulysses.

    “All in all, the lives of 142,241 Isabelinos were forever changed when this storm hit our province,” he said.

    Dy added Isabela legislators are concerned about the impact of the storm on the agriculture sector in the province, considered one of the country’s major food baskets.

    Isabela is the top producer of corn in the country, and produces the second highest volume of rice nationwide.

    Former Vice President Jejomar Binay urged other former, senior government officials and Cabinet members to extend assistance to the typhoon victims.

    “Helping our people doesn’t stop when we leave government. Serving the people and showing empathy should continue even we are not any more in the position, specially during calamities,” he said.

    Binay is initially extending assistance to Cagayan and Isabela.

    “As a help to our countrymen in Isabela, I will be sending my first donation to its provincial government for the relief and rescue operations that they will be conducting”, he said.

    Flooding in Cagayan Valley (PNA Photo)

    The Department of Budget and Management has augmented the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Fund by P10 billion and is now looking at releasing P1.5 billion more to raise the calamity funds of local government units in the three regions affected heavily by the recent typhoons, Budget Assistant Secretary Kim Robert de Leon said during a situation briefing on Sunday in Pili in Camarines Sur.

    The NDRRM Fund could be tapped to replenish the quick reaction fund (QRF) of departments involved in rehabilitation and recovery programs. Releases for QRF, however, are subject to the endorsement of the NDRRMC and the approval of the Office of the President.

    Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, during the “Laging Handa” briefing yesterday, said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has provided P35.5 million worth of relief assistance to Regions I (Ilocos), II (Cagayan valley, III (Central Luzon), IV-A (Calabarzon), IV-B (Mimaropa), V (Bicol), Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), and National Capital Region (NCR) after Ulysses. — With Wendell Vigilia, Noel Talacay, and Jocelyn Montemayor