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Anti-insurgency funds okay for typhoon aid

Malacañang on Wednesday said the government can use the proposed budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for relief and rehabilitation in communities devastated by super typhoon “Rolly.”

Tropical storm “Siony” intensified as it headed toward the Luzon Strait, and will likely make landfall on Batanes province or the Babuyan Islands on Friday morning, the state weather bureau said. In its severe weather bulletin, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Siony (international name Atsani) may reach its peak intensity of 130 kilometers per hour as it moved slowly westward. Storm signal No. 1 was in effect over the northeastern portion of mainland Cagayan and the eastern portion of Babuyan Islands.

“The objective of ELCAC is to promote development in areas with ongoing insurgencies because we know that poverty is still the root cause of insurgency,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in an interview over CNN Philippines.

“So I don’t think there is any inconsistency with the proposal to actually spend funds in typhoon damaged areas because it is a fact that Bicol also is a hotbed for the insurgency. So that would be within the mandate of ELCAC,” he said.

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros earlier proposed the realignment of a portion of the proposed P19 billion budget for the NTF-ELCAC for the rehabilitation and relief efforts in the wake of Rolly’s onslaught.

Hontiveros said that the funds for the task force, which had been criticized for branding leftist lawmakers, activists, and administration critics as communists, would be better spent on victims of the recent destructive typhoon.

But Senator Panfilo Lacson said that additional calamity funds should not necessarily come from the anti-insurgency funds.

“We continue to identify possible sources of amendments,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, on the other hand, aired his support for the use of P19 billion of the NTF-ELCAC budget for relief and rehabilitation efforts.

The latest reports said at least 20 people in the Bicol region were killed by the typhoon, considered as the world’s strongest storm this year, which also caused P6 billion in damage to agricultural crops and infrastructure.

Anti-insurgency funds okay for typhoon aid
HELP ON THE WAY. Personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Red Cross load 500 pieces of corrugated galvanized iron sheets used in building roofs aboard BRP Gabriela Silang to aid the renovation of houses affected by Super Typhoon Rolly in the Bicol region. Elsewhere, the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office II prepares Family Food Packs (FFPs) for families that would be affected by incoming Tropical Storm Siony in Northern Luzon; Agriculture Secretary William Dar visits a rice plantation in Polangui, Albay to check the damages caused by ‘Rolly’, and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar visits the Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga, which was hit by mud and lahar flows following the torrential rains. Norman Cruz, PCG, and DSWD photos
Roque also said there was no need to create a task force to oversee the rehabilitation of typhoon-hit areas since President Duterte is already on top of the situation.

He was responding to a proposal from Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte to form such a task force. 

“What we’re saying is number one, the government was prepared for this. We have prepositioned equipment for the Department of Public Works and Highways and food packs. Number two, the President is on top of rehabilitation efforts,” Roque said.

He added that the President has seen the extent of devastation in an aerial inspection over Albay and Catanduanes. He said government agencies have been directed by the President to take all necessary steps to help the storm-hit communities.

“The task now is to rebuild and we’re focused now on the numbers. Catanduanes is completely isolated,” Roque said, citing the President’s order to authorities to restore power, telecommunications, and water in the island province, which reportedly suffered the most damage from the typhoon.

He said military planes have delivered food and water supplies to Catanduanes while the transport authorities will deploy a ship to bring additional relief.

Roque also said that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has also committed to provide emergency employment to 5,000 residents in Catanduanes to help clear the road of debris.

“We were able to limit the casualties and it could have been more because it was a super typhoon but he’s pleased to note the local government units acted promptly in asking residents in low-lying areas to evacuate and thereby reducing... the number of casualties,” Roque said.

Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rolando Bautista, meanwhile, said his department has already provided P8.3 million worth of food packs and non-food items to victims of Super Typhoon Rolly.

He said the department currently has stockpiles and a standby fund of P281.2 million.

The Department of Health (DOH), on the other hand, has granted P20 million worth of financial aid to hospitals in areas devastated by Super Typhoon Rolly.

Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said the financial aid was distributed to three DOH hospitals—the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital in Legazpi, Albay (P5 million), the Bicol Medical Center in Naga City, Camarines Sur (P5 million), and the Bicol Region General Hospital and Geriatric Medical Center in Cabusao, Camarines Sur (P2 million).

The aid also went to the provinces of Camarines Sur (P2 million), Albay (P1.5 million), and Catanduanes (P1.2 million). Naga City received P1.2 million. Camarines Norte, Masbate, and Sorsogon got P600,000 each.

Damage wrought by Rolly and Typhoon “Quinta” ahead of that did P10.9 billion in damage to agriculture and infrastructure.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) announced that farm losses added up to P4.56 billion with Quinta inflicting P2.56 billion and Rolly, P2 billion.

Some 115,148 hectares of farm lands in Regions III, CALABARZON, MIMAROPA, V, VI, and VIII were damaged, affecting the livelihood of some 77,958 farmers.

Some 262,539 metric tons of rice, corn, high-value crops, fisheries, livestock, irrigation, and agricultural facilities were lost.

Quinta caused 145,577 metric tons in lost production, affecting 47,864 farmers and fishermen, and damaged 88,252 hectares of agricultural land in Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, the Bicol region, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas and the Zamboanga Peninsula.

Rolly caused 116,962 metric tons of additional damage in 26,896 hectares of farmlands affecting 30,094 farmers.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said production losses would have been higher if not for the field advisories that encouraged farmers to harvest mature crops before the entry of the typhoons. About P26.52 billion worth of rice, corn, and high-value commercial crops were saved from Quinta and Rolly, he said.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said damage to roads, bridges, and buildings

The Department of Energy (DOE) on Wednesday reported initial damage to electric cooperatives at P2.8 billion from both typhoons.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said typhoon Rolly caused P33 million in damage, affecting 22 electric cooperatives and 2 million households.

He said there is still no estimate of damage to transmission facilities.

DOE said it was racing to restore power to the Bicol region and Catanduanes.

“We are placing urgency in restoring power. We cannot delay…We know that it's already November and Christmas is near and power is needed not only because of Christmas but because of the [COVID-19] pandemic. We need power in hospitals, Cusi said.

The Manila Electric Co. Said power has been restored in its entire franchise area.

DOE also said natural gas power plants that went on contingency shutdown during the typhoon are now back online.

Also on Wednesday, Rep.Alfred Delos Santos of Ang Probinsyano party-list pushed for better flood control structures in the Bicol region under a new master plan, after the area suffered severe flooding from torrential rains spawned by Rolly.

“We cannot just do relief efforts. We must come up with long-term solutions that will mitigate the impact of severe flooding caused by strong typhoons,” Delos Santos said, after visiting flooded areas in the Bicol region.

“What we have is the old master plan. But what we need right now, as this experience has shown us, is a feasibility study for a new master plan that will take into consideration climate change and the new realities. And we need it as soon as possible so we can respond immediately and properly when calamities come,” he added.

Delos Santos specifically proposed a new master plan to improve the flood control structures around the Bicol River Basin and Sabo Dam.

As of Nov. 1, 2020, close to 400,000 people have been displaced by Rolly, with Albay and Camarines Sur bearing the brunt of the super typhoon. About 30 municipalities and 180 barangays in these provinces have been affected, government data showed. 

Topics: super typhoon “Rolly" , Risa Hontiveros , Panfilo Lacson , anti-insurgency funds
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