As hundreds of thousands displaced by Typhoon Odette (international name: Rai) cry out for food, water and shelter, government and private groups are being mobilized to deliver relief supplies to the devastated regions, officials said Tuesday.
President Duterte has also promised to raise up to 10 billion pesos in fresh disaster funds for “rehabilitation and recovery efforts” in areas devastated by the country’s worst typhoon this year, according to incumbent President Karlo Nograles.
In addition to military aircraft and ships, private shipping and airlines have been tapped by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to expedite the delivery of relief supplies. (See related stories on pages A5 and A8.)
The landing dock ship BRP Tarlac of the Philippine Navy was supposed to leave for Cebu on Tuesday evening with a load of relief supplies. The ship is scheduled to reach Cebu on Wednesday afternoon, the military said.
According to DSWD spokeswoman Irene Dumlao, a ship belonging to the domestic Montenegro Shipping Lines had already delivered food packages to Siargao, while AirAsia had flown supplies to Palawan.
“Our distribution of family food packages has been continuous as part of our response operations,” said Dumlao.
P29-M help so far
Based on data from the DSWD, relief supplies worth 28.9 million pesos were distributed to the typhoon-hit areas on Tuesday. Aid came from the DSWD itself (P 17.3 million), local governments (P 10.5 million) and non-governmental organizations (more than P 1 million), she said.
Aid included food packages for families and non-food items such as hygiene kits, laminated bags, modular principles, blankets, mosquito nets, bed linen and towels.
Each grocery pack contains six kilograms of rice, two cans of sardines, four cans of corned beef, four cans of tuna flakes, five packs of 3-in-1 instant coffee blend, and five packs of powdered cereal drink, according to the agency.
Dumlao said the food aid was “pre-positioned in strategic areas” prior to the typhoon but could not immediately tell how many families or individuals had received it.
She said reporting by DSWD field staff was hampered by rundown communication lines and power outages in areas badly hit by the typhoon.
Danilo Atienza, Southern Leyte Province disaster chief, told Reuters that the prepackaged food and non-food aid is insufficient “because many are in need.”
Foreign aid has also arrived, including from Japan and China, as the United Nations has announced that it will work with partners to provide shelter, health, food, shelter and other life-saving measures.
Local authorities and police have reported nearly 400 fatalities since the typhoon first hammered Siargao Island on Thursday last week with winds of 195 kilometers per hour and gusts of 270 km / h.
At least 56 were reported missing.
The DSWD said Tuesday that 588,778 families, or 2,348,754 people, were affected by the typhoon. 112,966 families or 459,673 people remained in evacuation centers five days after Odette’s strike.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported Tuesday that the typhoon affected 3,238 barangays in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), the Bicol region, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao was. Davao Region, Soccsksargen, Caraga and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
However, the Visayas regions were most severely devastated.
The president’s pledge to raise funds came after he said the public coffers were “immensely” depleted due to spending on the COVID-19 pandemic, a claim made by some lawmakers and opposition groups, citing his government’s loans in the amount of 1.15 trillion pesos for the health crisis and the money already programmed into the budget for it.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said there was money the government could immediately mobilize for the typhoon-ravaged areas, particularly the emergency funds created under the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Fund, as well as the president’s contingent fund and his social fund.
Both the 2020 budget and the 2021 budget for these funds are still valid, said the chairman of the home resources committee.
“They have approximately 6.5 billion pesos of available fund balances from the NDRRM fund and the president’s conditional funds based on the latest budget reports,” Salceda said.
“There is money left”
Salceda said the President’s Social Fund received pesos 2 billion from Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp this year.
“So there is definitely money left over for these areas,” he said.
He said the government could also work with Congress to reprogram some funds from agencies with large outstanding balances.
He couldn’t immediately tell how much additional funding such reprogramming could raise for Odette disaster relief efforts.
Salceda also urged the NDRRMC to recommend declaring a state of disaster in several regions of the country in order to activate measures such as price controls, reprogramming of funds to repair infrastructure and the granting of interest-free loans by state financial institutions.
The province of Cebu announced the state of the disaster on Friday last week. Others that followed were Bohol, Puerto Princesa City, Agusan del Norte, and Butuan City provinces.
Surigao del Sur Governor Alexander Pimentel said he had convened a special session of the provincial board so that a state of disaster could be declared in the province.
Pimentel said his province was not badly damaged, unlike Surigao del Norte. Still, 45,043 families or 104,257 individuals are affected by Odette and some parts of the province are still without electricity and communications, he said.
Nograles thanked the Filipinos for “showing the Filipino Bayanihan spirit by helping our Kababayans during this time of great need”.
“We also sincerely thank our friends in the international community and our partners for their support, solidarity and willingness to help the Philippines,” he said. —WITH REPORTS BY LEILA B. SALAVERRIA, JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE, NESTOR CORRALES, DEMPSEY REYES AND REUTERS
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