Orders Cabinet to scramble budget, avoid depleting quick response funds of LGUs
LEGAZPI CITY—President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday ordered national agencies to cover 90 days of relief assistance to evacuees of the areas around restive Mayon Volcano to unburden local government units (LGUs) responding to the disaster.
Three months, government scientists and local experts say, is the estimated maximum period of unrest in Mayon, which state volcanologists said could unleash a “more vigorous” type of eruption as it already is spewing lava and ashes.
The President visited Albay province, landed in Legazpi City, and conducted an aerial inspection of the areas affected by the increasing activity of the volcano, particularly around Guinobatan town.
The President responded by telling his Cabinet to study the proposed budget, as Albay’s P30-million quick response fund could only sustain evacuees for about 14 days.
“Let us be prepared to take as much of the load as soon as possible off of the local government units so they can have – we don’t know if a storm will come (to Albay), or something else might happen, so they can still have reserve (funds),” Mr. Marcos said in Filipino.
“We will not consume their quick response fund, number one,” President Marcos said during a situation briefing at the Albay Astrodome in Legazpi.
“Number two, we should use as a working number: a minimum of 45 days. The 45 days to 90 days come from both the science of DOST (Department of Science and Technology) and the experience of the locals. When we were asking them, ‘How does this go?’, they said 45 to 90 days. So that’s the working number we’ll use,” he added.
Mr. Marcos came from South Cotabato, where he spearheaded the distribution of various government assistance, including livelihood and training support, to the residents and farmers in the Mindanao province.
He apologized for the hours-long delay in his attendance at the launch of South Cotabato’s modern rice production program, after the plane he was in suffered “technical issues” and had to turn back to the airport.
Also during the meeting in Albay, Secretary Rex Gatchalian assured the President that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has already dispatched 153,000 food packs for the 90-day cycle for Albay.
Mr. Marcos visited the Guinobatan Community College evacuation center to assess the condition of the evacuee families being housed there and also led the distribution of government assistance.
According to the report of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in the Bicol Region, the DSWD, Philippine Red Cross, Ang Probinsyano Partylist, LGUs, private groups, and non-government organizations have so far provided a total of P29.2 million worth of assistance to the evacuees.
The OCD also said it sent both food and non-food items, and water, sanitation, and health (WASH) equipment to Albay.
These relief items include 3,200 sacks of rice, 320 rolls of sakoline, 1,101 hygiene kits, 424 OCD family packs, and one water filtration vehicle to be deployed by the provincial government to affected localities.
A total of 4,400 families or 15,676 individuals were displaced by the disaster, mostly from seven Albay municipalities and cities: Camalig, Ligao City, Daraga, Guinobatan, Malilipot, Santo Domingo, and Tabaco City, the OCD reported.
Of the total number of displaced families and individuals, 4,215 families, or 15,017 persons have sought shelter in 22 evacuation centers, while 185 families, or 659 persons are temporarily residing elsewhere, according to the OCD.
The agency also reported that a total of 120 livestock such as carabaos, cattle, and goats were moved to safer grounds from the danger zones in the municipalities of Daraga and Malilipot.
President Marcos and DOLE representatives turned over a check worth P49 million as
the Department’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) assistance to local chief executives of the affected municipalities.
The President was accompanied by Special Assistant to the President Anton Lagdameo, Presidential Communications Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil, and Defense Chief Gilberto Teodoro.
In South Cotabato, the aircraft that was supposed to bring the President to the province encountered a technical problem, Garafil confirmed to reporters.
She said the plane had to head back to Villamor Air Base in Pasay City after encountering a technical issue, after which Mr. Marcos used a different aircraft.
The Philippine Air Force (PAF) said in a statement released the plane’s technical problem was “nothing serious.”
“The G280 command and control aircraft that flew this morning with the President onboard had to return to base a few minutes after takeoff due to a minor technical issue on the aircraft’s flaps operations,” the PAF said. — Vince Lopez
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