BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR and VICTOR REYES
GOVERNMENT is studying the possibility of placing several areas affected by super typhoon “Rolly” under a state of calamity to enable it to directly provide assistance to concerned local government units, Budget Secretary Wendell Avisado said yesterday.
Officials of Albay and Catanduanes, the areas in the Bicol region worst hit by Rolly, earlier his week appealed for relief goods and other aid as they said their funds are almost depleted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cost of damage to infrastructure and agriculture from Rolly has reached P11.4 billion, mostly in the provinces of Catanduanes and Albay, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
The last typhoon to cause such massive destruction was “Ompong” in October 2018, with P33.9 billion in damage to infrastructure and agriculture. It left 82 persons dead and affected over three million people.
Rolly left the country on Tuesday night. Severe tropical storm “Siony” which followed it continued to threaten the northern part of the country.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) placed Batanes and Babuyan Islands under signal No. 2, and the northern portion of mainland Cagayan, northern portion of Apayao, and the northern portions of mainland Cagayan, of Apayao, and of Ilocos Norte under signal No. 1.
PAGASA said Siony may make landfall or will be close to Batanes or Babuyan Islands this morning, and is seen to leave the Philippine area of responsibility this afternoon or tonight.
“Siony is forecast to reach typhoon category with a peak intensity of 120 kph by tomorrow (Friday) morning as it passes near or over the Batanes-Babuyan Islands area,” PAGASA said.
As of 7 p.m, PAGASA said Siony was some 255 km east of Basco, Batanes and moving west northwest at 20 kph. It was packing maximum sustained winds of 100 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 125 kph.
Avisado, in a virtual briefing with Catanduanes officials, said agencies under the NDRRMC are meeting today to discuss a declaration of “a national calamity in the areas covered by, or affected by super typhoon Rolly” and where to source the needed funds.
He said the declaration will enable the national government to directly provide additional aid to the local government units.
Avisado said several agencies have quick reaction funds (QRFs) that can be tapped to provide immediate aid to provinces or towns in need, like the departments of agriculture, education, health, and public works, and the National Electrification Administration.
He said the Office of Civil Defense also oversees the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Fund (NDRRMF) which can be used for long-term projects like rehabilitation or reconstruction of devastated areas.
He said Catanduanes can request the OCD for funds from the NDRRMF, which now has P3.6 billion. Avisado said the NDRRMF is set to be augmented by another P5 billion. He said there is also an available P10.1 billion contingency fund that can be tapped.
Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, in an interview with ANC, said his department has some P1 billion in QRF that can be tapped for reconstruction efforts.
He said infrastructure damage in Catanduanes was placed at P5.8 billion.
Villar, who visited Catanduanes on Wednesday, said priority in the reconstruction are dikes and other flood-mitigating infrastructure, and de-silting of rivers in anticipation of typhoons.
He said national roads in Catanduanes remain impassable but these expected to be cleared in the next few days. The national roads which are impassable because of landslides are located in Bato, San Miguel, Baras at San Andres towns.
Catanduanes Gov. Joseph Cua, in a virtual briefing, said Rolly has affected 35,222 families or 142,478 individuals in the province with 7,814 individuals currently staying in evacuation centers and some 45, 886 in private houses.
He said some 10,400 were destroyed and 19,262 damaged.
He said damage to agriculture reached P1.4 billion, mostly affecting the abaca industry, while destroyed government-owned infrastructure amounted to about P1 billion.
Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella said restoration of power in Virac, Catanduanes and other severely-affected areas in the province will take one to two weeks, and that 100 percent restoration of power in Catanduanes is targeted to be completed before Christmas.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development said it has provided some P16.1 million worth of relief assistance to Catanduanes, Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, and Sorsogon.
Villar said rivers in Guinobatan also need to be de-silted after debris and boulders from Mayon Volcano in Albay province flowed at the height of the typhoon.
“The volume of debris coming from Mount Mayon is very massive. After every eruption those debris actually accumulate. If there’s heavy rain and it comes down, it overwhelms the safety measures we put up,” he said.
He said the debris from Mayon had been expected to flow during typhoons regardless of whether there are quarries around the area or none.
The President ordered a stop to quarrying in the area following complaints from residents that quarry operators left their stockpiles, which were washed away during the typhoon.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources suspended around 12 quarrying operations in the town.
The NDRRMC said it has recorded P8.47 billion worth of damage to infrastructure in the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol, and Eastern Samar regions, Cordillera Administrative Region and National Capital Region due to Rolly.
Cost of damage to agriculture was pegged at P2.93 billion in the Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol, and Eastern Samar regions.
The agency placed the damage to infrastructure and agriculture in the Bicol region at P9.6 billion, including P6.4 billion in Catanduanes and Albay.
Damage estimates are expected to increase in the coming days.
The initial cost of damage is on top of 44,033 houses that were either destroyed or damaged in the Bicol region alone — of which 15,765 are in Albay and 13,585 in Catanduanes.
The number of affected population in NCR, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol, and CAR was placed at 230,834 families or 906,146 persons, of which 61,912 families or 228,559 persons are displaced.
Bicol has registered a total of 83,161 families or 316,704 persons affected, of which 30,634 families or 112,555 persons are displaced. The affected and displaced population are also mostly in Catanduanes and Albay.
As of yesterday, the official death toll of the NDRRMC from Rolly was pegged at 20, mostly in Catanduanes and Albay. The PNP said it has recorded 28 deaths — 23 in Bicol region, four in Mimaropa and one in Calabarzon.
Authorities continue to pour in more relief items for residents of Catanduanes and Albay.
A Philippine Navy ship, BRP Pangasinan, arrived Legazpi City in Albay yesterday afternoon with 40 tons of relief goods from government agencies and non-government organizations.
The ship left Cebu City on Wednesday.
Also yesterday afternoon, a Philippine Coast Guard ship, BRP Gabriela Silang, arrived in Virac, Catanduanes also with large quantity f relief goods and supplies. The ship departed Manila on Wednesday.
Navy public affairs officer Lt. Cmdr. Maria Christina Roxas said another ship is on the way to deliver supplies in Sorsogon, which was also battered by Rolly.
On Wednesday, NDRRMC executive director Ricardo Jalad said relief goods are coming to the badly-hit provinces. He noted President Duterte has ordered agencies to extend all assistance to affected population.