The Department of Education, facing a shortage of school shelters in earthquake-ravaged areas in Mindanao, said Monday it needed at least P1.6 billion to replace 500 classrooms and repair 700 school buildings.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones said she has requested funds from the National Disaster Coordinating Committee under the Office of the President and is studying whether the agency’s own budget can be used to repair damaged schools.
DepEd officials said it would take “more than a year” to build replacement buildings, each worth P2.5 million, which can withstand tremors and typhoons.
The Oct. 3 quakes, whose magnitudes all measured above 6, left at least 29 dead and sent some 28,000 people to evacuation centers, said the national disaster coordinating agency.
In related developments:
• Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana assured the public the government still had sufficient stocks of relief goods to aid families affected by the quakes in Mindanao and ruled out the need to turn to the international community for help in the relief efforts.
• Insurance Commissioner Dennis Funa said he activated the Disaster Response Mechanism to expedite quick insurance claims for the speedy recovery of the residents of Mindanao following three major tremors.
Lorenzana said government has sufficient resources. “Plus there are local donors who have given donations while others are on standby,” he said.
Lorenzana was earlier designated by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, acting as the government’s officer-in-charge, as the point person for the immediate delivery of assistance to the victims of the series of quakes in Mindanao.
The DND chief also clarified that his statement on Sunday stating that the earthquakes in Mindanao could be considered a humanitarian crisis was taken from an unverified source.
“Yes, my initial statement of (Mindanao earthquakes being a) humanitarian crisis was taken from an unverified source.
Undersecretary (Ricardo) Jalad of the NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) who was there until Sunday reported that it was not. “Not all affected families are in the evacuation centers but opted to stay near their homes,” he added.
More relief goods are coming from Manila which are being transported by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
“There is sufficient relief goods now in Kidapawan [North Cotabato] and the DSWD is transporting some more from Manila and other regions,” the DND chief pointed out.
Lorenzana directed the military to set up checkpoints in the quake-affected areas in Mindanao to properly record the arrival of relief goods and workers.
The checkpoints will also ensure that only legitimate and authorized relief workers are granted access to evacuation centers and receive relief goods and supplies for distribution to the evacuees.
“The checkpoints will also screen those kibitzers or ‘usiseros’,” the DND chief disclosed.
The DND chief said he had instructed relevant authorities on the proper management of evacuation centers to ensure order in the distribution of relief goods in wake of reports that some people were rushing to relief vehicles and getting anything they could .
“I have also directed the military to remove the people from the highways begging and blocking vehicles bringing relief goods and bring them to their communities so they can be properly attended to,” Lorenzana stressed.
Relief organizations, he said, could leave their donations to troops for distribution to the affected families or if they want to do it themselves, military units could direct them to areas needing their assistance, he added.
Lorenzana said the AFP, especially the Army, had deployed a task force in Kidapawan, Cotabato coordinating the military’s operation with ongoing government relief operations.
In response to the series of earthquakes in Mindanao, the Insurance Commission mobilized the Agarang Proseso, Benepisyo ay Sigurado Program for the setting up of claims action center for simplified and quick claims where insured victims can go for their legitimate insurance claims.
The claims action center will be headquartered at the Insurance Commission Davao district office and will be operational starting Nov. 4.
According to the latest reports from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, 12 persons died during the magnitude earthquake on Oct. 29, while another nine died due to the magnitude 6.5 tremor on Oct. 31, and the number of infrastructures damaged by the quakes was placed at 28,932.
Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said it was likely the proposed creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience would be approved before Congress goes on Christmas break.
Sotto, one of the authors of the proposed measure in the Senate, said his proposed Senate Bill No. 245 provides that the DDR would become the primary government institution tasked to ensure “safe, adaptive, and disaster-resilient communities.”
A key feature of this measure is a “clear system of responsibility for disaster preparedness and response classified into four levels—from Levels 1 to 4 or from the municipal/city mayor all the way up to the Secretary of Disaster Resilience.”
“This directly answers the oft-repeated question in times of disaster: Who is in charge?” Sotto said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto for his part said the Senate should conduct its own post-earthquake assessment—to find out if the Calamity Fund in this year’s budget and the one for next year is enough to help the people and places hit by the recent Southern Mindanao earthquakes.
“We should conduct an inventory of funds. There may still be money left in this year’s Calamity Fund for relief operations, to sustain the day-to-day needs of victims, but reconstruction would require bigger funding,” said Recto.
Financing-wise, he noted there was a big difference between buying grocery items and rebuilding damaged roads.
“The truth is that typhoons and earthquakes do not only rearrange the lay of the land, but also reconfigure budget numbers,” said Recto.
He said a movement in oil prices and inflation rate may, for example, alter the budget but not in an intensity that a big calamity, like the earthquake which rocked Mindanao, can trigger spending adjustments.
This year’s Calamity Fund—officially the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund—is P25.1 billion, consisting of P20 billion in new appropriations and P5.1 billion left over from the 2018 national budget.
For next year, the proposed appropriations is P20 billion, of which, P3.5 billion is for Marawi, the same amount earmarked this year.
The Senator said he is proposing that whatever amount Congress and the Executive will earmark for rehabilitation and reconstruction be clearly tagged as such, to create a firewall that will prevent it from being used for other purposes. It can be called Comprehensive Aid to Repair Earthquake Damage or CARED.
Having CARED in the 2020 budget will send the message of hope to the intrepid people whose homes are destroyed but whose spirit is not that help is on the way. That there is nothing to be scared of because of CARED.