DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday said government can handle relief operations for nearly 200,000 Mindanao residents displaced by the recent strong quakes, without assistance from the international community.
“The international community is not needed in this case. The government has sufficient resources. Plus there are local donors who have given while others are on standby,” said Lorenzana, chairman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDMMC).
Ricardo Jalad, NDRRMC executive director and administrator of the Office of Civil Defense, issued a similar statement. “No, we still have enough resources,” he said.
Lorenzana also said relief workers are now able to reach all the affected residents. He said the distribution system has been improved following incidents wherein displaced residents wait on highways and block vehicles carrying relief goods.
“Ngayon maayos na ang sistema. Marami tayong Army trucks na naghahakot ng relief goods even in remote areas (Now the distribution is orderly. We have Army trucks bringing relief goods even to remote areas),” he said Lorenzana.
Three strong quakes hit Mindanao last month, all with epicenter in Tulunan town in North Cotabato. The quakes affected Sarangani, Bukidnon, and South Cotabato provinces, and the cities of Kidapawan, Davao, Koronadal, General Santos, and Cagayan de Oro City. At least 21 persons have died from the three quakes which occurred on October 16 (magnitude 6.3), October 29 (magnitude 6.6) and October 31 (magnitude 6.5).
Lorenzana and Jalad said there is no “humanitarian crisis” in Mindanao.
Lorenzana said information about the supposed existence of a humanitarian crisis was relayed by a source and has not been verified.
“Undersecretary Jalad of NDRRMC who was there until yesterday reported that it is not (a case of humanitarian crisis)… There are sufficient relief goods now in Kidapawan and the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) is transporting some more from Manila and other regions,” said Lorenzana.
Jalad said government agencies are able to reach all people displaced by the quakes but admitted some have gone to the streets to appeal for food.
“We are able reach the people for distribution of relief goods… It’s just a matter of management of relief efforts. There is no humanitarian crisis, the markets are open. If the people have money, they are able to buy food,” said Jalad.
Jalad said government relief operations are ongoing and being undertaken in collaboration with local officials.
He appealed to residents who have resorted to begging to proceed to evacuation centers and barangays for relief goods.
“To the donors, if they are donating they should coordinate with the incident command posts and if they want to reach a particular evacuation center, they can do it with our assistance,” said Jalad.
“They should not distribute, give relief goods in the highways,” said Jalad. “So that it will be orderly, the release of goods, distribution of goods should be done at the evacuation centers, not in the highways,” said Jalad.
Lorenzana, asked if President Duterte will visit the quake victims, said, “I don’t know. But judging from past events, it is very likely he would visit.”
On how soon they can rebuild the quake-stricken areas, Lorenzana said, “It depends when the tremors will completely stop.”
Meanwhile, PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa said 77 policemen were among those affected by the quakes in Soccsksargen.
Gamboa also appealed to the 190,000 PNP members to donate at least P10 each for the affected residents.
“Our voluntary donation, starting P10, for each of the members of the PNP, will be for the constituents, other than the PNP personnel,” he said.
The Department of Education (DepEd) yesterday said at least P1.6 billion will be needed to replace school infrastructure damaged by the earthquakes.
In a radio interview, Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said about 500 classrooms were destroyed and around 700 others had major damage.
Malaluan said each classroom that can withstand calamities or natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes is worth around P2.5 million based on current design.
“It will take time for rehabilitation, for major repairs. ‘Yung iba, reconstruction ang kailangan (the others need only reconstruction) so that would often take more than a year even to put up replacement of school buildings,” Malaluan said.
The cost of damage excludes learning materials and is expected to rise because damage assessment is ongoing.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) assured families of Filipinos working overseas, who are affected by the earthquakes, that it is prepared to provide them financial assistance.
“We will help OFW families gravely affected by the earthquakes. We are just determining the number of OFW families affected,” said OWWA administrator Hans Leo Cacdac.
“P3,000 cash assistance for active members’ families in worst hit areas,” he said.
The Department of Health urged displaced individuals to maintain proper hygiene practices despite limited resources to avoid illnesses.
“We need to be extra careful with our hygienic practices. Make sure we practice proper hand washing, use clean water to cook and for drinking. We wouldn’t want any disease outbreaks,” said Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo.
He said the DOH has deployed 11 medical and sanitation teams to different affected areas to help make sure “there are clean water supplies, clean water containers, providing hygiene kits so the people can prevent any disease outbreaks.”
Domingo also said 73 health facilities that have been damaged by the earthquakes. These include a barangay health station, a rural health unit, and a private hospital in North Cotabato, and a barangay health station in Davao del Sur.
Domingo said some of the damaged health facilities remain operational.
“For those that cannot handle patients, we refer them to the nearest unaffected hospitals,” said Domingo. – With Rod Lagusad and Gerard Naval