Rody places 6 regions under state of calamity, sets P14B for recovery
By Vito Barcelo, Francisco Tuyay, Alena Mae Flores,
Darwin G. Amojelar, and Maricel V. Cruz
President Rodrigo Duterte committed to raise an additional P10 billion on top of the P4 billion earlier pledged for the rehabilitation of areas ravaged by typhoon “Odette” as he approved a resolution placing six regions under a state of calamity.
The declaration, Duterte said in a pre-taped message aired late Tuesday evening, will cover Regions 4B, 6, 7, 8, 10 and 13 (Caraga).
“The declaration of the state of calamity will hasten rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts of the government and private sector,” Duterte said.
Duterte earlier committed P2 billion to Odette-damaged provinces during a visit to Leyte, then added P2 billion after his visit to Cebu and Bohol.
In a situation briefing in Kabankalan City, Duterte provided guidance and issued several orders to national agencies to address the immediate concerns of the local governments in Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental.
Agricultural assistance will be distributed by the Department of Agriculture to affected farmers and fishermen, he added.
The Department of Public Works and Highways was ordered to clear uprooted trees along the roads and highways and to turn over these logs to the local government units for use as construction materials for housing. The department will also provide support for river dredging as soon as funds are available.
Duterte also ordered the Department of Energy to work double time to restore power in affected areas as soon as possible.
He ordered the Department of Information and Communications Technology to also work fast to restore telecommunication networks and internet connectivity in the affected regions.
Troops raced Tuesday to deliver food and water to typhoon-ravaged islands as charities appealed for aid to help hundreds of thousands left homeless by the deadly storm.
At least 375 people were killed and hundreds injured when Typhoon Odette battered the southern and central regions of the archipelago Thursday last week, wiping out wooden houses, uprooting trees and knocking out power across entire islands.
“Never in my entire life have I encountered such a typhoon,” said Catholic Bishop Antonieto Cabajog in Surigao, on the northern tip of Mindanao island.
“To say ‘super’ is an understatement,” he told a Catholic church-run news agency.
More than 400,000 people were sheltering in evacuation centers or with relatives, the national disaster agency said, after their homes were damaged or destroyed by the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has ordered the military to deploy ships, boats, aircraft and trucks to deliver food, drinking water and medical supplies to survivors, who have been struggling for basic necessities.
Heavy machinery, including backhoes and front-end loaders, also have been sent to clear roads.
Many on the island of Palawan had never experienced such a strong storm, Catholic priest Eugene Elivera in the provincial capital Puerto Princesa said, adding: “The challenge now is how to begin again.”
The Armed Force of the Philippines said it would forgo its 86th anniversary celebration so as not to disrupt ongoing disaster response operations, AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Andres Centino said.
Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP spokesman, said the military is coordinating with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) for their disaster-response missions.
He said the AFP has mobilized search, rescue and recovery units from all regional commands to the battalion level “to ensure the widest coverage possible.”
The presidential yacht, BRP Ang Pangulo, is also serving as a floating hospital to serve Dinagat Islands and Siargao.
The BRP Gabriela Silang of the Philippine Coast Guard left Manila on Sunday and arrived in Surigao Tuesday morning carrying about 50 tons of relief goods and medical, rescue, and relief augmentation teams.
The Red Cross is flying relief to popular tourist destinations Siargao and Bohol islands.
“The emergency appeal by IFRC helps us to act swiftly and do all we can to help people and families get back on their feet,” said Alberto Bocanegra, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Philippines.
The organization has appealed for $22 million to fund urgent relief and recovery efforts.
Canada, Hungary, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand have pledged to provide over P187.9 million to assist provinces hit hard by the onslaught of Typhoon Odette.
On top of this, several countries like China, the United States, Japan, Israel, and Australia allocated in-kind goods for immediate deployment to the affected families.
World leaders also sent their condolences to the bereaved families of those who perished in the super typhoon.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Ottawa is providing financial assistance through the Red Cross, which should help address the urgent need for water and sanitation on the ground.
“My heart goes out to the people of the Philippines, whose lives have been forever changed by last week’s super typhoon. Canadians are sending our deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones – and we’ll keep everyone affected in our thoughts during this challenging time,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
“In the days and weeks ahead, we’ll continue to help those who need it most,” he added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also sent his sympathies and expressed solidarity with the Filipino people.
”Russia shares the grief of those who lost their family members and friends as a result of this natural disaster and wishes a speedy recovery to all those injured,” he said.
The United Kingdom has pledged GBP750,000 (approximately P49.47 million) to the Philippine Red Cross, which will be coursed through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) “to help support those in desperate need of assistance.”
The New Zealand government, meanwhile, will donate NZD500,000 (about P16.77 million) to the Philippines to support the IFRC’s efforts on the ground.
Hungary is sending HUF20 million (about P3.05 million) to the typhoon victims and to help restore the damaged churches in Cebu.
Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian said about 20,000 food packages worth around P8 million are on their way to Cebu, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Bohol, Cagayan de Oro City, Surigao City, Negros Oriental, and other provinces hit by Odette.
At the same time, 4.7 million kilograms of Chinese government-donated rice are already in different Philippine ports, of which 1.5 million kg. are in Cebu and 3.2 million kg. are in Manila for deployment.
“Chinese relief goods on their way to areas devastated by Typhoon Odette. Our hearts go out to all the Filipino families who were devastated by Typhoon Odette which has caused massive casualties as well as property loss,” Huang said Tuesday.
The Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCII) is contributing a total of PH2 million through its Filipino Chinese Community Calamity Fund.
The Israeli Embassy in Manila in a text message said Ambassador Ilan Fluss is also flying to Cebu to deliver solar panels, food packs, and hygiene kits to typhoon-affected residents on Dec. 22.
Last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with the support of the Australian government, sent about 1,000 solar lamps, 1,000 mosquito nets, 1,000 plastic tarps, and 200 plastic sheets to augment the government-led relief operations on the ground and help displaced families in the severely affected islands of Siargao and Dinagat.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), together with the World Food Program and the Philippine government, has deployed two mobile operations vehicles for emergency (MOVE) to Surigao and Ormoc to facilitate access to electricity and internet for responders on the ground.
The Japanese Embassy in Manila said Tokyo is also sending disaster relief assistance in the form of generators, camping tents, sleeping pads, portable water containers; and plastic sheets to cover roofs.
San Miguel Corporation (SMC) has activated its network in the Visayas and Mindanao regions to deliver truckloads of food to Odette-hit areas. This, as the company dispatches fuel stocks at its Petron installations and, where possible, provide access to water at its affected manufacturing facilities to help fence line communities.
SMC president and chief executive officer Ramon S. Ang said the company had, over the weekend, coordinated with various local government units to immediately extend aid to stricken cities and communities, with its donations reaching P30 million as of Monday, Dec. 20.
Among the provinces SMC has been sending food donations to are: Antique, Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur, Bacolod, Bohol, Biliran, Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro, Camiguin, Cebu, Dinagat island, Davao del Sur, Eastern Samar, Guimaras, Iloilo, Leyte, Marinduque, Misamis Oriental, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, Siquijor, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, and Tagoloan.
“We are one with all our countrymen who were affected by the recent typhoon. There’s a lot of things that are needed right now; we want to help make sure that basic food is covered. We will continue to assess the situation in the coming days and weeks and find more ways to help,” said Ang.
McDonald’s Philippines, meanwhile, through its charity of choice, Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), has committed to serve 20,000 meals for communities affected by the super typhoon through their McDonald’s Kindness Kitchen program.
In partnership with Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), the Naval Reserve Command Multi-Sectoral Linkaging Committee, Air Asia, Philippine Airlines, and Coca-Cola, McDonald’s Kindness Kitchen will be able to reach and serve affected communities. McDonald’s franchisees in these areas are also mobilizing to provide meals.
The Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, popularly known as the Manila Cathedral, has so far received over P3 million in cash donations for the victims of Typhoon Odette.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the basilica said the amount raised from the special collection amounted to PHP3,144,717 as of Dec. 20.
“Words cannot express our deep gratitude to the Manila Cathedral mass goers and online community for the donations you sent for our brothers and sisters who are greatly in need at this moment,” it added.
Earlier, Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula said all Mass collections and online donations to the Manila Cathedral from the evening of Dec. 18 and the whole day of Dec. 19 will be given to the victims of Typhoon Odette.
Meanwhile, Surigao Bishop Antonieto Cabajog has asked the people to pray for the typhoon victims.
Cabajog also appealed for help as food and water are priority needs in badly hit areas.
The country’s two largest telecom companies on Tuesday said they have nearly completed the restoration of telecommunication services in Mindanao.
PLDT Inc. and wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) reported that 99 percent of Mindanao fixed services and 97 percent of wireless services are up, including vital communication links in the Misamis Oriental and Surigao del Norte.
Meanwhile, 86 percent of wireless services and 60 percent fixed services in the Visayas have been restored.
Customers may experience intermittent service in previously restored areas due to prolonged unavailability of commercial power and transmission lines.
PLDT and Smart technical teams are also working round-the-clock in affected areas in Palawan, amid clearing operations and power interruptions. Additional support teams have also been flown from Manila to critical areas via PLDT’s aviation unit to augment resources onground.
Globe Telecom Inc., on the other hand, has restored services in Eastern Samar, Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Sur, as more areas become operational. Restoration efforts in typhoon-affected areas in Mindanao are nearing completion, the company said.
In the Visayas, certain areas remain challenging due to several damaged roads, bridges, and power lines. Globe’s network engineers on site are working to bring services back to normal.
Globe field teams are currently on the ground in Siargao, another hard hit area and are putting up the needed equipment to put mobile services back up.
In some parts of Palawan, particularly north of Puerto Princesa, collapsed bridges have posed delays in restoration efforts particularly hauling materials to provide temporary aerial fiber in these areas.
Globe is working closely with respective LGUs in clearing operations and infrastructure repairs to get communication lines in typhoon-hit areas, the company said.
Meanwhile, Lalamove, an on-demand platform for same day delivery, is supporting relief efforts to help families displaced and affected by the devastation brought by Typhoon Odette.
Lalamove has pledged to donate P1 million for relief efforts in Cebu province and its chartered cities. This is in addition to the immediate support the company will provide to its thousands of partner drivers in the province.
The Philippine Army, for its part, has deployed sophisticated communication equipment in areas damaged by the typhoon to help facilitate links among families and relatives and to hasten the government’s disaster response.
Philippines Army Chief Maj. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., said the communication equipment includes Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite phones along with electric generators deployed in key points at the Western Command in Palawan, Visayas Command, a VSAT in Mactan Cebu, now providing the Philippine Air Force internet connectivity, and two VSAT phones in Lahug City, and Tacloban City.
He said the newly deployed equipment is over and above the issued satellite phones, VSAT, and military radios deployed in all Army units nationwide.
“In this time of crisis, communication is vital for our commanders and leaders to address the needs of our people better. Hence, we put a premium on the installation of needed communication equipment in critical areas while waiting for our telecom companies to restore their services,” he added.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) on Tuesday estimated damage to national roads, bridges, and flood-control structures at P448.9 million as of Dec.21, 2021.
Of the total damage, the agency said P209.5 million is due to damage to roads, P100 million in damage to bridges, and P139.4 million in damaged flood control structures.
To date, the DPWH has cleared and reopened a total of 33 road sections to ensure delivery of relief goods to affected areas. Teams with equipment are working for the reopening of 11 national road sections that are still impassable in Regions 4-B, Region 7, 8, 10, and 13.
Power cut off
Bohol, Siargao, Dinagat and Surigao del Norte will likely still be in the dark until after New Year’s Day as power restoration efforts continue to be hampered by communication and transportation issues.
The National Electrification Administration (NEA) initially estimated the damage wrought by typhoon Odette to the country’s electric cooperatives at nearly P300 million although some electric cooperatives have yet to submit reports.
NEA department manager Ernesto Silvano said power to these isolated areas may be restored after New Year’s Day as the Task Force Kapatid has so far reached only Surigao del Norte, which has been heavily damaged.
“Some of the teams will cross to Dinagat and Siargao. We cannot do it (before New Year’s Day) with all the challenges: communication, transportation, mobilization, availability of materials, and extent of damage,” Silvano said.
The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines said among the facilities damaged by typhoon Odette, Bohol has yet to be energized.
“We are still concentrating on how we can address the issues in Bohol. Before we send a task force, we need to know what equipment and facilities they need because it’s pointless to send people there without [this information],” said Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella.
In a separate statement, NEA said 74 affected electric cooperatives are undergoing recovery measures.
Within the 11 affected regions, 46 cooperatives were able to continue normal operations. The strong winds running with a velocity of up to 220 kph, however, managed to interrupt power distribution among 20 electric cooperatives.
Five days after Odette made landfall, restoration efforts for transmission facilities continue, NGCP said.
Of the 2,200MW “normal” loading or consumption of the Visayas grid, only about 800 megawatts or 36 percent is being monitored by NGCP’s Visayas System Operations.
While aerial patrols are still ongoing, NGCP has found 12 of its transmission towers and more than 600 transmission poles damaged.
Of the 95 transmission facilities affected, NGCP has restored 76, leaving only 19 lines for restoration.
NGCP said it has fully restored transmission services to the provinces of Capiz, Antique, Iloilo, Biliran, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Davao Oriental, Agusan del Norte, and Agusan del Sur.
NGCP has augmented its work force – deploying a total of 92 line gangs, or 736 personnel, working 24/7 when weather and safety conditions permit to expedite post-Typhoon Odette restoration work.
Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi called on the entire energy family to help alleviate the plight of electricity and fuel consumers in the Visayas and Mindanao.
Cusi urged the public not to resort to hoarding or overpricing of essential products such as fuel.
“The DOE is committed to restoring and stabilizing power and fuel supply,” the Energy chief said.
Power retailer Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) has extended assistance to expedite restoration of electricity in areas that were severely affected by Typhoon Odette.
Meralco said in a statement it immediately coordinated with the Department of Energy and the Visayan Electric Co. (VECO) and sent an advance party to Cebu on Dec. 19 to help assess the extent of damage to power facilities.
Meralco will be deploying a contingent of around 50 engineers and linemen, 25 of which arrived in Cebu today, Dec. 21, to immediately help in clearing operations and power restoration in the province.
The company is also coordinating with concerned offices, including the Philippine Navy and PLDT, for the transportation of additional personnel, 15 vehicles, 11 generator sets, and heavy equipment to the work site.
More personnel and portable generator sets are currently on standby and ready to be deployed to other areas that would need assistance.
In Manila, the program Unang Balita reported that the sale of generator sets picked up in the last few days as people bought generators for their loved ones in the Visayas.
“The demand for generators has really increased. That is why we open our store early because people from the provinces go here early to buy,” said Joyce Sanchesz, a generator vendor.
A congressional leader on Tuesday called on provincial and city governments in Odette-affected areas to consider suspending requirements for inbound travelers to facilitate better government and private sector response.
Assistant Majority Leader and Rep. Fidell Nograles of Rizal said, “We are again seeing the spirit of bayanihan. While we know that COVID is a real concern, it is just right for us to relax some rules to ensure that help will be received by the needy in the quickest manner.”
As part of the ongoing government response to the typhoon, the Department of Health and the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) are assessing the condition of vaccines and storage facilities in areas with reported power outages.
To date, 13 regions in Luzon and Mindanao reported zero vaccine wastage and no cold storage facilities damaged due to Odette. Assessments are still ongoing in Regions VI, VII, VIII and CARAGA, the DOH said in a statement Tuesday.
In anticipation of the typhoon, the National COVID-19 Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) issued Advisories 118 and 119 which temporarily suspended the Bayanihan Bakunahan – Phase 2 in provinces along the typhoon’s track to prioritize safety of the public, the implementers and vaccines, and called for the implementation of contingency plans of local vaccine operations centers.
“Since early last week, we have issued advisories to help our vaccination sites in the regions prepare for the typhoon. The DOH and the NVOC will also ensure immediate resumption of vaccination in these areas as part of the response or recovery activities in the typhoon-hit areas and we will ensure that only those vaccines that have not been compromised will be administered. We will also continuously support the contingency plans of our Local Government Units to further mitigate wastage,” said Health Undersecretary and NVOC Chair Myrna Cabotaje.
The NVOC also provided guidance to vaccination sites on proper storage management for the COVID-19 vaccines. As a result, several sites have prepared generator sets before the typhoon made landfall, while others mobilized vaccine storage to hospitals and facilities with continuous power or generator sets, Cabotaje said.
Meanwhile, the National Task Force (NTF) said vaccines would continue to be provided to the provinces in the coming months.
“The Philippines is constantly and continuously in contact with the COVAX facility and the vaccine manufacturers to ensure we get the supply that we need to provide adequate protection for all Filipinos,” said vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez. — With AFP