PH now under state of national Calamity
by FFE PH News staff
To hasten the distribution of relief and the arrival of rescue and rehabilitation efforts, President Aquino declared a state of national calamity on Monday night.
In a televised address, the president said ‘We declared a state of national calamity to expedite the government’s rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts in provinces devastated by Yolanda.’ He appealed for understanding as he said the national government is now taking over rescue and relief efforts as local government units remain paralysed by the typhoon.
He said ‘In the coming days, you can expect help to arrive [faster].’ He also appealed for cooperation and prayer, adding: ‘Let us show the heart of the Filipino, who will never be brought to his knees by any typhoon.’
President Aquino with DILG Secretary Mar Roxas assessing the damages Yolanda caused in Tacloban City, Leyte. Photo: Malacanang Photo Bureau
The order will allow the government to respond quickly and more effectively to the needs of disaster-hit areas. Help from persons and groups in the private sector and those who are offering international assistance will also be streamlined following the proclamation.
So far, the government has allotted Php18.7 billion from calamity and contingency funds to assist typhoon victims. An additional Php1.1 billion was released as a ‘quick response fund’ for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). Twenty-two countries have also offered their help as of Monday, including the United States, Britain and Japan.
Under the proclamation, a prize freeze will also take effect in calamity zones. The military and law enforcement agencies are likewise mobilised to ensure law and order in the provinces.
This is the third time the Aquino government has declared a state of national calamity. The first was on 11 December 2011 after tropical storm Sendong (international name Washi) ravaged Mindanao and left 1,080 people dead. The second was on 7 December 2012 in the wake of typhoon Pablo (Bopha), the costliest typhoon to hit the country.
As of Monday, government officials still have no official record of the full extent of damage the super typhoon left. Cabinet secretary Rene Almendras said in a conference ‘The situation is bad, the devastation has been significant. In some cases the devastation has been total.’
With communications and electricity still down in many areas, the death toll has remained unclear. A police local official’s estimate of 10,000 has not been confirmed by the government. But as of Monday night, the partial, official count released by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has placed 1,774 dead and 2,500 missing in the region.
Philippine National Police (PNP) director general Alan Purisima has already looked into reports that point to Eastern Visayas police director and senior superintendent Elmer Soria as the source of the 10,000 death estimate. The director general reiterated that only the NDRRMC had the authority to report on casualties during disasters.
‘Our (standard operating procedure) is that we should be factual in our reports. We should not be speculating’, he said.
Operations continue to be slowed down by debris-littered roads and damaged airports and bridges. Energy secretary Jericho Petilla also announced it may take two months to fully restore power in the region. He said that even after the 100 damaged power pylons were restored, power distribution may be hampered by lack of materials and manpower.
While mass burials are being conducted across the region, officials expect more bodies will continue to turn up in the coming days.
Officials in Western Visayas have so far estimated a Php600 million in damage to infrastructure and Php99 million in damage to agriculture. Central Visayas officials have yet to determine the full extent of damage in their region.
The state of national calamity will remain in effect until the president lifts the order.