‘PAENG’ DEATH TOLL UP AT 155, 34 MISSING; Marcos orders aid, places 4 regions under state of calamity

By ALFRED GABOT, Editor in Chief

MANILA – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has placed four regions badly hit by tropical storm “Paeng” under state of calamity for six months, ordering food prices freeze, among others, as the death toll across the country rose to 122 with 36 still missing as of November 3 and damages to agriculture, infrastructures and properties were placed at several billions of pesos.

As of November 6, the death toll was placed at 155 with 34 still missing and damage to infrastructure was estimated at P4.7 billion and agriculture at P2.7 billion.

After an assessment on the extent of damages from the storm with his Cabinet and other officials, and visits to affected areas in Cavite and Maguindanao, Marcos ordered the distribution of relief goods and emergency supplies of medicines, the restoration of power and communication supplies and damaged infrastructures, including school buildings.

The President himself led the distribution of goods and financial assistance to victims in Cavite and Maguindanao. Marcos also conducted an aerial inspection of areas in Maguindanao province that were submerged by the flood when Paeng wreaked havoc last week.

Noticing the extent of the damage of the typhoon in Maguindanao, Marcos said there is a need to push for tree planting activities as part of the flood prevention efforts.

“So we have to include tree planting in our flood control,” he said.

In Maguindanao, Marcos tasked Public Works and Highways Secretary Manuel Bonoan to set up a district office in BARMM to speed up the rehabilitation of damaged infrastructures in times of calamities.

Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman welcomed this move, saying aside from overseeing infrastructure repair, a DPWH office in BARMM would also help in ramping up implementation of infrastructure projects funded by the national government.

 In his first aerial survey in Cavite, Marcos was accompanied by Cavite Governor Juanito Victor Jonvic Remulla and other officials.

The President also led the ceremonial distribution of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) assistance to families and individuals in Barangay San Jose II in Noveleta, Cavite along with Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., Congressman Jolo Revilla and other officials.

At least P50 million worth of relief goods were distributed to the Cavite typhoon victims.

Speaker Martin G. Romualdez, meanwhile, said P49.2 million in cash pledges have been raised for the House of Representatives’ own relief operations for the Paeng victims. At the same time, Marcos Jr. signed Proclamation No. 84 placing the regions of Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon provindes), Bicol, Western Visayas (Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo and Negros Occidental), and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) under a state of calamity for six months.

A total of 966,824 families or 3,323,188 people were affected by Paeng, of whom 45,841 families or 165,688 individuals are staying in 2,655 evacuation centers, , according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Meanwhile, power interruptions hit 294 areas, of which 140 already have their power restored.

At press time, up to 222 roads and 96 bridges remain impassable after the storm’s onslaught, the NDRRMC said, adding the cost of damage to infrastructure was estimated at P1.033 billion while the damage to agriculture was estimated at P2.74 billion, with 82,380 hectares of agricultural areas, 74,944 farmers and fishers affected.

Other developments:

1.      Several nations, including the United States, China, Japan, and Australia have pledged assistance for the Philippines.

2.       In a Facebook post, the US Embassy in the Philippines said it supported the transport of 10,000 family food packs from the Department of Social Welfare and Development to South Cotabato, one of the provinces hit by Paeng.” An additional 25 trucks are mobilizing to deliver emergency food and relief supplies from to families affected by the storm… We stand with our Filipino #FriendsPartnersAllies in this time of crisis,” the US Embassy said.

3.      China said it “took swift action to donate the first batch of disaster relief materials to Datu Odin Sinsuat, North Maguindanao Province,” where Paeng triggered deadly flash floods.

The Chinese Embassy said it brought thousands of cases of distilled water, instant noodles, water containers, rice, toothbrushes, coffee, isopropyl alcohol, and anti-mosquito gels to the affected areas in Mindanao.

4.      Japan’s Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa expressed his condolences to the families of Paeng’s victims and said that Tokyo is “ready to provide the maximum possible assistance to the Philippines.”

5.      Australian Ambassador to the Philippines HK Yu likewise offered assistance to the country. “Australia offers its heartfelt thoughts to those in Philippines whose lives have been affected by #PaengPH. We stand with our friends at this difficult time and are ready to provide assistance as required,” she said.

“Australia is providing life-saving family kits to the most affected communities in the BARMM. This assistance will ensure that those most severely affected by PaengPH will have fast access to priority needs,” the envoy said on Twitter.

Marcos heeded the recommendation of the NDRRMC to declare a state of calamity after Paeng “caused the loss of lives, destruction of property, damage to agriculture and critical infrastructures, and disruption of means of livelihood and normal way of life of the populations in the affected areas.”

“More than 1.4 million of the populations in Regions 4-A (Calabarzon), 5 (Bicol Region), 6 (Western Visayas) and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) were adversely affected by Severe Tropical Storm Paeng,” Marcos said in the proclamation.

According to Proclamation 84, the declaration of a state of calamity would enable the government, as well as the private sector, to “hasten the rescue, recovery, relief, and rehabilitation efforts.”

Placing the affected regions under a state of calamity will also help “effectively control” the prices of basic necessities and prime commodities, the proclamation stated.

Under the proclamation, the national government and the local government units (LGUs) would be given “ample latitude” to use appropriate funds for rescue, recovery, relief, and rehabilitation efforts.

Proclamation 84 will also ensure the “continuous” provision of basic services to the affected populations, based on the law.

“All government departments, agencies, and instrumentalities concerned are hereby directed to continue implementing and executing rescue, recovery, relief, and rehabilitation measures in accordance with pertinent operational plans and directives,” the proclamation stated.

“All departments and other concerned government agencies are also directed to coordinate with the LGUs to provide or augment the basic services and facilities of affected areas. Law enforcement agencies, with support from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, are directed to undertake all necessary measures to ensure peace and order in affected areas.”

The proclamation allows the President to include other areas in the declaration of a state of calamity “if warranted,” taking into consideration the continuing damage assessment in affected areas and based on the recommendation of the NDRRMC and the conditions provided by law and issuances.