Aquino-ordered probe under way;
Pope offers prayers; UN, US help
By FRANCO G. REGALA AND JO ERLINDA G. NEBRES
CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City — The death toll in Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and other areas battered by super typhoon “Pablo” the other week has reached 955 with 841 still missing, triggering fears that the number of fatalities could still rise.
Estimated damage to properties, schools, roads and other infrastructures, agricultural crops, fisheries and livestock has surpassed P16.9 billion, almost half in the banana plantations alone.
The death toll and damage estimates were counted as of Saturday by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
The NDRRMC said the number of injured persons also rose to 2,662 while 841 others remained missing.
The agency said that of the total number of fatalities, only 573 had been identified.
The biggest number of dead totaling 897 was reported from Region 11 (Davao Region). The rest included 21 in the Caraga Region, 15 in Region 10 (Northern Mindanao), 10 in Region 7 (Central Visayas), four in Region 12 (Soccsksargen), three in Region 8 (Eastern Visayas), three in Region 4-B (Mimaropa) and one each in Region 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) and Region 6 (Western Visayas).
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said the total cost of damage brought about by “Pablo” in agriculture and fisheries in Davao Region alone was estimated at P7.938 billion with the banana sector suffering P5 to P8 billion in losses.
The DA reported that some 26,160 hectares of crops in 18 provinces from six regions in Mindanao (Regions 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and ARMM) were affected.
The losses from the banana sector prompted Secretary Alcala to stop exports of Philippine bananas to the United States temporarily.
As of Saturday, the NDRRMC said Pablo had affected 591,090 families or 5,782,730 people in 2,136 villages in 271 towns and 38 cities in 32 provinces
Of these, 210,338 families or 883,620 people are staying in 56 evacuation centers.
Damage caused by Pablo was estimated at P16,996,584,238.05 — P7,250,831,200 in infrastructure, P9,696,793,515.05 in agriculture, and P48,959,413 in private properties.
At least 62,927 houses were destroyed while 95,402 were partially damaged.
The NDRRMC said 12 bridges and four roads are still not passable while 33 areas are experiencing power interruptions.
The Philippine Army mourned the death of another of its members, whose body was unearthed in one of the areas hit hard by Typhoon “Pablo” last week.
Major Harold Cabunoc, Army spokesperson, said rescue teams unearthed the body of Pfc. Fermin Segapo, one of the soldiers swept by floods last Dec. 4.
“Segapo was with the group of Lt. Deazeta of Charlie Coy, 66th Infantry Battalion who attempted to transport flood victims to safer grounds,” he said.
Earlier, the military said the truck used to evacuate residents in New Bataan town in Compostela Valley was also swept by floods last Dec. 4.
Cabunoc said the floods also swept the company base of the Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion Charlie Company.
At present, he said the Army has lost seven personnel in the wake of Pablo, while four others remain missing.
He said 17 others are recuperating in a military hospital in Davao City
“Each of the dead soldiers (is) entitled to at least P500,000 financial benefits from the government,” he added.
The estimated cost of assistance for affected families has reached P120.06 million, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
The DSWD has allocated P53,259,187.30; local government units (LGUs), P26,897,302.23; Department of Health (DOH), P26,099,032.70; non-governmental organizations/other government organizations, P10,257,002.40; and NDRRMC, P3,505,706.
Five provinces, 41 towns and four cities in Southern Luzon, Central Visayas, and Regions 10, 11 and Caraga have declared a state of calamity.
As of last Thursday, 19 bridges and seven roads were still impassable while 35 areas were still experiencing power interruption.
The government is spearheading national efforts to undertake immediate rescue, recovery, relief and rehabilitation in affected provinces.
President Benigno S Aquino III, Vice President Jejomar Binay Jr., Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II were among the first to fly in the devastated areas in New Bataan in Compostela Valley, Boston in Davao Oriental and other areas to check on the situation there.
The President was accompanied during the inspection by 10 other Cabinet members, namely, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and Mindanao Development Authority Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, who helped the President assessed the extent of the damage in the area.
Pope Benedict XVI offered his prayers for the typhoon victims as the United Nations started firming up assistance.
The United States earlier contributed $100,000 in aid and allowed its C130 planes and soldiers based in Japan to transport relief goods and assistance to Mindanao. Officials from the US Embassy in Manila accompanied the soldiers in turning over the assistance to Philippine authorities.
Pope Benedict XVI issued a call for “brotherly solidarity” with the Philippines after a typhoon killed hundreds and left tens of thousands homeless in Mindanao.
The Pontiff said during his weekly Angelus address that he felt “close to the people of the Philippines affected” by Typhoon Bopha.
“I pray for the victims, their families and the many homeless,” he said, adding that he hoped faith and Christian charity would help the country get through the ordeal.
The President instructed government agencies to speed up relief and search operations, as well as the reconstruction of damaged roads and bridges so that needed goods and services could reach heavily damaged areas.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported the figures as President Aquino declared a national state of calamity to hasten the rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts.
The President issued Proclamation No. 522 which allows local government units to utilize their respective calamity funds for the rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts in their areas.
It will also hasten the government and the private sector’s release of assistance, including international humanitarian donations, and will effectively control the prices of basic goods and commodities for the affected areas.
The declaration also necessitates that mechanisms for international humanitarian assistance are implemented pursuant to Republic Act No. 10121, or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.
With the issuance, the President tasked all departments and concerned government agencies to carry out medical assistance, relief and rehabilitation work in accordance with existing operational plans and directives and orders.
The President’s declaration of a State of National Calamity automatically imposes price controls on basic goods in affected areas.
It also mandates lending institutions to grant zero-interest loans to the most affected section of the population through cooperatives or through people’s organizations.
At least 50 municipalities and provinces in Regions 4-B, 7, 10, 11 and Caraga have been declared under a state of calamity.
The NDRRMC added that power supply in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan and water supply in Valencia City were 90 percent restored while power blackout is still experienced in the province of Surigao del Sur particularly in Hinatuan, Bislig and Lingig areas; Rosario, Bunawan, Trento, Sta. Josefa, Veruela, Loreto and Esperanza in the province of Agusan del Sur
President Aquino III has instructed the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)to evaluate the readiness of the local government units in responding to disaster and calamities.
President Aquino directed the DILG along with the Department of Justice (DOJ)and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to review and conduct some changes in the crisis manual of each local government unit.
He stressed the importance of check and balance and management system in times of crisis explaining that in times of crisis, there has to be specific tasking, directions, and the need to verify the facts further.
“I want a more centralized effort on how to address the impact of the crisis,” he added.