December 2, 2022

PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is considering placing the Philippines under a one-year state of calamity due to the effects of Severe Tropical Storm “Paeng” (international name: “Nalgae”) which left “16 of 17 regions at “high risk.”

In his meeting with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and other government officials on Saturday, the President said he would study the recommendation, taking into consideration the number of regions affected by massive flooding and landslides caused by continuous rains from Paeng.

“National state of calamity ang what you are recommending. Sa bagay, maraming regions affected (Considering that many regions are affected), that already justifies for [the] state of calamity,” he said.

“Let me wait for your resolution. Tignan ko (I will look into it),” the President added.

But for now, the President said that the Bicol Region and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARRM) are the regions that are “going to really [be] put under state of calamity.”

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During the briefing, Office of Civil Defense administrator Raymundo Ferrer told the President that 16 of 17 regions in the country are at “high risk” and where 25 of the 64 provinces within Paeng’s diameter are in the same category.

“With this, Mr. President, on behalf of the chairperson, the NDRRMC respectfully recommends for the following: Declare a State of Calamity due to the effects, damage and projected impacts by Severe Tropical Storm Paeng for a period of one year, unless earlier lifted; and to accept offers of the international assistance based on needs,” Ferrer said.

Defense Secretary Jose Faustino Jr., concurrent NDRRMC chairman, will sign the resolution for submission to the Office of the President, he added.

A state of calamity allows the government to tap calamity funds, prevent a price increase in basic necessities and grant interest-free loans.

According to the NDRRMC, 45 persons were killed by the onslaught of Paeng.

Most of the fatalities came from Mindanao, where they were victims of either landslides or flooding which started on Friday.

Meanwhile, 14 persons were reported missing and 33 others were reported injured in the areas hit by Paeng.

Shocked over high fatalities

The President said he was in shock over the high number of casualties in the BARMM and asked why the affected residents were not immediately evacuated.

“It will be important to us to look back and see why this happened na hindi natin naagapan ito na 67 ang casualty (that we could not prevent this 67 casualties). That seems very high for a flooding incident,” Marcos said, referring to a previous figure that was cited by the NDRRMC.

“So, maybe if we can start with that first just to give me a better idea of what happened, what caused the flooding, and bakit hindi natin sila na-evacuate at nagkaganyan ang casualty napakataas (Why were they not evacuated? Why were there so many casualties)?” he added.

Earlier on Saturday, the President took to Twitter to urge the public to take precautionary measures, especially to those who went to the provinces for the nation’s observance of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

The President had assured that government agencies were on standby for rescue operations, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine National Police and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

He said the Department of Social Welfare Development had pre-positioned food and non-food items to high-risk areas.

“[The] OCD (Office of Civil Defense) has deployed its assets for transportation and clearing operations,” Marcos said.

“Our prayers go to the lives lost in the Aklan, Capiz and BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) flash floods, and to those who continue to be gravely affected by this calamity,” he added.

P4.1M Palace aid

Meanwhile, Malacañang said the government has initially released P4.1 million in assistance to Paeng victims on the instruction of the President.

Office of the Press Secretary Officer in Charge Cheloy Garafil said the government has available overall relief resources of P1.5 billion with P445.2 million standby and quick response funds.

“The Marcos administration, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), local government units (LGUs), and other partners, provided P4.1 million in assistance to families affected by Severe Tropical Storm Paeng, which already made landfall in the Bicol Region,” Garafil said in a statement.

The Palace official said the DSWD also has more than P1 billion worth of stockpiles ready to be distributed.

Search and rescue in Metro Manila

In Metro Manila, the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) said it deployed at least 544 personnel to assist in disaster response, particularly in search and rescue operations in areas affected by Paeng.

In a phone interview with The Juan Kabayan on Saturday, NCRPO spokesman Col. Dexter Versola said the personnel were placed on standby should they be needed.

He stressed personnel have with them at least 683 life vests, 23 rubber boats, 836 tactical radios, 248 police mobile assets and 15 generator sets.WITH CHRISTIAN CROW MAGHANOY