Poe renews push for creation of Disaster Management agency amid Taal unrest

Robie de Guzman   •   January 15, 2020   •   190

Senator Grace Poe

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Grace Poe renewed her call for the creation of a permanent disaster management department as several areas in Southern Luzon continue to grapple with the impact of the eruption of Taal Volcano.

In a statement, Poe underscored anew the need for an agency to deal with issues relating to calamities.

The senator, who is pushing the passage of Senate Bill No. 124 seeking the establishment of the Department of Disaster Resilience and Emergency Assistance and Management, said it is time for the country to have an agency which is mandated to focus on reducing tragedy and implement adequate and timely response during a disaster.

“I think the eruption of Taal Volcano gives yet another reason for the establishment of this department,” Poe said in a radio interview Tuesday.

“We really need a department that has a mandate of focusing on preventing tragedy during a calamity, correct and timely response, and adequate and proper rehabilitation, including acceptable relocation of victims,” Poe said.

Under the bill, the department will have a Bureau of Disaster Resiliency, which will focus on mitigation, prevention, and post-disaster rehabilitation.

It will also have a Bureau of Disaster Preparation and Response, which will handle the operations immediately before, during, and immediately after a disaster; and the Bureau of Knowledge Management and Dissemination, which will build up and disseminate technical knowledge on disaster risk reduction management.

Structurally, the department shall consist of two separate and distinct entities, which are NDRRMC and the department proper.

Under the proposal, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) shall retain its policy-making and coordinating functions under Republic Act 10121, or the “Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010,” while the department proper shall be the secretariat and executive arm envisioned to provide leadership with accountability. The department shall also have local offices in every region.

Poe said that while the NDRRMC has a head, the council is actually composed of several departments like the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Health, and the Department of Public Works and Highways.

“Noon pa ito ay na-file ko na kasi iyong ating NDRRMC ngayon, bagama’t sila ay abala sa mga nangyayari, hindi pa ito ganap na departamento. So, ano ang ibig sabihin n’yan? Wala talagang secretary o cabinet rank level kaya coordinating council lang talaga sila,” Poe said.

Poe stressed that in times of calamities, it is critical that someone is in charge.

“Dapat may isang kalihim na magiging responsable,” she said.

Thousands of families in Batangas province and nearby areas have been affected by the ashfall that has blanketed roads, homes and structures following the eruption of Taal Volcano beginning Sunday.

Farmers affected by Taal eruption seek government assistance

Maris Federez   •   January 21, 2020

Ash-covered cornfield in Brgy. Hornalan, Calamba, Laguna, 21 January 2020. Clinton Anniversario/Photoville International

Laguna, Philippines — Farmers in the province are losing thousands of pesos after their crops had been affected by the Taal Volcano’s eruption.

Hectares of farm lots for corn, tomato, bitter gourd, string beans, squash, and other crops in Barangay Hornalan in Calamba, Laguna were destroyed.

This prompted farmers like Michael Marudo and Frisco Año to call on the government for assistance.

Michael said he cannot sell his vegetable produce as they were all covered by the thick ashes from the eruption.

He claimed to have lost around Php30,000.

“Halos 100% po ‘yung bumagsak wala na pong maani. Kasi lahat po ito binisita namin kasama ‘yung technician ko sa Calamba,” Michael said.

Frisco, on the other hand, said his losses have now reached Php100,000 as his corn and squash produce were ruined.

The animals in his farm were also affected by the ashfall making them weak and sick.

“Ang aming naisip ‘yung pagsisimula ‘yung tulong ng pamahalaan kasi parang ano kami lahat ng ari-arian nasira sa pagkakaputok ng bulkan,” Frisco said.

The farmers in Laguna are asking the government for seedlings and tractors that they can use in farming. — (from the report of Correspondent Grace Doctolero) /mbmf

Duterte leads distribution of assistance to families affected by Taal eruption

Maris Federez   •   January 20, 2020

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Monday (Jan. 20) led the distribution of assistance to families affected by the Taal eruption in Sto. Tomas in Batangas.

Relief goods coming from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and hygiene kits, sleeping mats and coffee seedlings from the Department of Agriculture (DA) were just some of the relief assistance given to the families in Sto. Tomas during the President’s visit.

The DA and the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) also handed out financial assistance to farmers who were affected by the ashfall.

The President also said he has given instruction to the National Housing Authorities (NHA) to assist families in rebuilding their homes.

The chief executive said that with the current activity of the Taal volcano, evacuees may have to stay at the evacuation centers for a much longer time.

“Alam mo sa nakita ko at itong Taal na ito pangmatagalan ito. Kaya in the meantime, magpaplano tayo kung paano — how you would negotiate from the time na nandito kayo hanggang pag-uwi ninyo. Malaking pera ‘yan. Pero ang gobyerno may pera. May pera ang gobyerno para tumulong,” the President said.

The President also underscored the need for a supplemental budget to sustain the restoration of houses and the provision of livelihood projects for the thousands of families affected by Taal.

He explained that the current budget does not include expenditures for the devastating calamity.

Duterte said he may also have to ask the help of the National Treasurer to aid in such measures.

According to records, the eruption has already caused damage to agriculture amounting to around Php3-billion.

After seeing the state of the evacuees at the gymnasium of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, the President urged Congress to draft measures that will lead to the building of large evacuation centers for disaster-prone areas.

“Wala tayong pagkukulang, ang problema lang itong accommodations ninyo. Kaya I am urging Congress na sa lahat ng mga prone areas ng disaster […] magkaroon ng evacuation center na malalaki. Lalo na yung probinsya na nakaharap sa Pacific Ocean and that would be Samar, Isabela, Cagayan, yun ang nakaharap dun, pati dito,” the President said.

He also stressed that Congress must prioritize allotting funds for the construction of the evacuation centers as the project should have already been started as a major eruption of the volcano is imminent.

The President assured that the government has funds available for assistance efforts that he will make sure that appropriate amount will be given to affected families. — (from the report of Vincent Arboleda) /mbmf

Pres. Duterte sets to visit Taal Volcano victims in Sto. Tomas, Batangas

Maris Federez   •   January 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is set to check the situation and lead the ceremonial distribution of food packs to families affected by the Taal Volcano eruption at the PUP Gymnasium in Santo Tomas, Batangas on Monday (Jan. 20).

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President will be accompanied by Cabinet members in his visit.

“Walang situation briefing but bibisitahin niya yung mga lugar […] mga affected areas,” Panelo said.

Panelo added that the President will go around Batangas to check the situation and determine the additional help that can be provided to the residents in each affected town.

The Social Welfare and Development Office (SWDO) of Sto. Tomas, Batangas said there are 11 evacuation centers in the city.

Meanwhile, evacuees who opted to stay with their relatives can also receive relief goods from the government.

Tanauan City SWDO Officer Rebecca Havier said affected residents will just have to coordinate with their office to avail of the relief goods.

“Kapag dumating sila dito bibigyan namin sila ng index card para sila ay maka avail noong mga ipinamimigay namin dito,” Havier said.

Havier added that they have distributed more than 10,000 relief goods to the affected families. — (from report of Vincent Arboleda) /mbmf

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