Disaster officials on Monday completed their assessment of damages and recommended that the entire Luzon be placed under a state of calamity after the widespread damage caused by typhoon “Ulysses” and two other powerful storms before it.
Based on situation reports issued by the National Disaster Risk Reduction Council (NDRRMC) from Nov. 9 to 16, the country has so far suffered a total of P32.23 billion in infrastructure and agricultural damages and lost 119 lives to Ulysses, Super Typhoon "Rolly" and Typhoon "Quinta" combined (see table below - Editors).
Seven storms hit the Philippines and blasted Luzon from north to south since mid-October, starting with Tropical Depression Ofel, which made landfalls in Sorsogon, Masbate, Marinduque, and Batangas on Oct. 14.
Tropical Storm Pepito made landfall in Aurora on Oct. 20, followed by Quinta, which hit Albay, Quezon, Marinduque and Or. Mindoro on Oct. 25-26.
Rolly made landfalls in Catanduanes, Albay, Quezon, Batangas on Nov. 1, then Severe Tropical Storm Siony passed by Batanes on Nov. 6.
Tropical Depression Tonyo made landfall in Marinduque and Batangas on Nov. 8, setting the stage for Ulysses, which landed in Quezon on Nov. 11 and crossed over Luzon to the West Philippine Sea on Nov. 12.
During a state of calamity, all local government units (LGUs) may use their quick response funds (QRFs) "to immediately assist areas stricken by catastrophes and crises."
Agencies like the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Education (DepEd) also have QRFs.
The recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte to declare a state of calamity was reached at a meeting of the NDRRMC Monday, its executive director Ricardo Jalad said.
Jalad said members of the council also agreed to convene a technical working group to assess the current state of dam management.
The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has come under fire for opening seven gates in the Magat Dam from Nov. 12 to 13, releasing the equivalent of a height of 18 meters, causing severe flooding in Isabela and Cagayan.
Jalad said NDRRMC chairman and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who led the meeting, told the state weather bureau to revisit its historical data to strengthen its warnings beforehand.
The meeting also tackled the provision of assistance to the affected farmers and fishermen; road clearing; shelter requirements; and other recovery interventions.
The estimated damage brought by Ulysses to infrastructure in eight heavily affected regions is now P8 billion, the DPWH reported Monday.
The department said damage to infrastructures occurred in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), National Capital Region (NCR), Region 1 (Ilocos), Region 2 (Cagayan Valley), Region 3 (Central Luzon), Region 4-A (Calabarzon), Region 4-B (Mimaropa), and Region 5 (Bicol).
Damage to roads was at P4 billion; P421 million to bridges; P2 billion on flood control; P300 million on public buildings, P511 million to school buildings, and P300 million to other infrastructures.
Regions 4-A and 5 so far recorded the highest number of damage at P3.3 billion and P1.89 billion, respectively.
The Palace, meanwhile, said it was drafting an executive order to form a “Build Back Better Task Force” to speed up the distribution of assistance to the victims of the successive typhoons.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the task force will be headed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea with representatives from various agencies as members, including the departments of Agriculture, Public Works and Highways, Budget and Management and Social Welfare and Development; the NIA; the National Electrification Administration; and the National Housing Authority.
The Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard must provide assistance to the task force, he added.
Local government units, he said, will also be called to render assistance to the task force in carrying out its mandate.
Roque said Medialdea, as the head of the group, can make decisions even without the task force meeting, if it means saving lives and to make sure that the funds are available to those who need them.
Roque also rejected criticism that the new task force would be redundant, given the existence of the NDRRMC.
“There’s no superfluity. It will facilitate the easier and faster provision of relief and assistance if there’s a calamity,” Roque said in a mix of English and Filipino.
He said the successive typhoons that hit the country make the creation of a task force a necessity.
Roque defended the government’s response to Typhoon Ulysses, but admitted they were not expecting the massive destruction that it brought.
“There were no shortcomings in the government's response to typhoon Ulysses, which left at least 67 dead and submerged a northern region under the worst flooding in more than four decades,” Roque said.
Duterte said government agencies and local government units deployed their resources even before back-to-back typhoons hit most of Luzon in the past weeks.
While the government prepared for typhoon Ulysses' onslaught in Cagayan Valley, authorities did not expect the amount of water that descended on the lowlands, Roque said.
The Palace official blamed climate change, deforestation, illegal mining, and a “chokepoint” in the Cagayan River that contributed to the flooding in the Cagayan and Isabela.
“There are many factors there. We anticipated [this], but as the governor himself said, they did not actually expect this much water discharge into Cagayan Valley," Roque said.
"We will strive to do better, but I think there is no shortcoming,” he said.
The NDRRMC said Monday the damage to agriculture caused by Ulysses has climbed to P2.14 billion.
In its 10 a.m. update, the agency said the cost of damage was almost double Sunday’s estimate.
Damage was reported in Regions 1 (Ilocos Region), 2 (Cagayan), 3 (Central Luzon), Region 4-A (Calabarzon), Region 5 (Bicol), and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
Damage to infrastructure was pegged at P482.85 million and these were recorded in Region 1, Region 4-B (Mimaropa), and 5.
The number of families affected by the typhoon was 523,871 or 2,074,301 persons residing in the National Capital Region (NCR), Regions 1, 2, 3, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, 5, and CAR.
The death toll remains at 67 ― 22 in Region 2; two in Region 3; 17 in Calabarzon; eight in Region 5; 10 in CAR and eight in NCR.
Twenty-one persons were reported injured and 13 were still missing.
“Ulysses” was the latest typhoon to have wreaked havoc across several regions in Luzon.
Super Typhoon Rolly (international name: Goni), the strongest storm recorded this year, hit the country early this month, causing widespread damage in the Bicol region.
In other developments:
• Senator Francis Pangilinan pressed for adequate funding for state disaster agencies and the revival of Project Noah of the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards. Pangilinan called out the Department of Budget and Management for slashing the budget of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) by over P70 million. The DOST’s Project NOAH, which identified areas prone to natural disasters, was defunded in 2017.
• Secretary Eduardo del Rosario of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development said the disaster in Cagayan Valley underscored the need to enforce a resettlement program in flood-prone areas, particularly those lying along river channels.
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