DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday gave the assurance there are enough supplies for nearly 200,000 people displaced by the recent quakes in Mindanao.
Lorenzana, concurrent chairman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), issued the statement amid reports that some affected residents have started begging for rice, water, medicine, and other supplies because local officials were struggling to distribute goods to stricken areas.
As of 6 a.m. yesterday, the NDRRMC’s official death toll remained at 21, from the magnitude 6.6 and 6.5 earthquakes that occurred in North Cotabato on October 29 and 31.
The quakes came two weeks after another major quake, measuring 6.3 in magnitude, also hit Mindanao on October 16, leaving seven persons dead and at least 200 injured.
The epicenter of all three quakes was Tulunan town in North Cotabato. The three were felt in a number of areas in Mindanao, including Sarangani, Bukidnon, and South Cotabato provinces, and the cities of Kidapawan, Davao, Koronadal, General Santos, and Cagayan de Oro City.
The NDRRMC said at least 430 were injured and two are missing in the last two strong quakes.
Lorenzana said NDRRMC executive director and Office of Civil Defense administrator Ricardo Jalad is in Mindanao supervising relief operations.
“As of last night, there are sufficient relief goods at evacuation centers… It just needs proper management of the distribution system to ensure that everyone is served,” he said.
Lorenzana there were cases when people rushed to vehicles carrying relief goods, “getting everything they can to the detriment of others.”
“Also in the highways, there were people with placards blocking vehicles with relief goods and taking them. I have directed the military and police to clear the highway of these people and bring them back to their communities so that they can be served properly,” he said.
Lorenzana said he has directed the military also to put up checkpoints at roads leading to the areas hit by the quakes “to ensure that there is order and that only accredited and legitimate relief groups or individuals are allowed in the area.”
“This will also prevent the kibitzers and `usiseros’ from getting in,” he added.
He urged all donors to turn over relief goods to the military for distribution. “If they want to do it (distribution) themselves, they will be directed to specific places needing their assistance,” he said.
Lorenzana said he has directed an engineering contingent “to proceed to the area to help in rescue and recovery.”
Jalad said there is no humanitarian crisis in the disaster-hit areas and Jalad said military planes have made several trips delivering supplies.
“We’re providing (relief goods). The provinces, the DSWD (department of Social Welfare and Development) have supplies also. The markets are functioning… There is enough supply of food. People with money can buy (food). Our problem are those with no money,” he said.
Jalad said government ordered the evacuation of residents in landslide-prone areas in Makilala town, North Cotabato on Saturday. The quakes led to landslides in some municipalities, killing several people.
Jalad did not name the specific areas.
NDRRMC spokesman Mark Timbal said the areas are in Barangays Bato, Buhay, Malungon, Malabuan, Luayon, Cabilao, Sto. Niño, and Poblacion.
The AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City said it has raised to heightened alert status all its units and directed the activation of Disaster Response Unit or Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response Task Force.
All assets under the Eastmincom are made available for the conduct of relief operations, said Eastmincom spokesman Lt. Col. Ezra Balagtey.
The NDRRMC said at least 35,660 families or around 178,300 persons have been displaced in the Davao region Soccsksargen regions. They are served inside and outside evacuation centers.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the national government is conducting preparations for the rehabilitation of affected areas while also developing programs to assist the victims.
“We have asked all treasurers and assessors of affected local government units to submit their estimates of the damage so we can determine the amount required,” Dominguez said.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu asked local government units to take note of areas declared highly susceptible to floods and landslides, based on geological hazard maps distributed by the government.
“Earthquakes and rains are a deadly combination. Mountainous and hilly areas that experience earthquakes and intense rainfall render these areas highly susceptible to landslides,” Cimatu said.
Wilfredo Moncano, head of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said teams of geologists and mining engineers have been sent to the affected areas to conduct damage assessment. — With Angela Celis and Jed Macapagal