December 2, 2022

WATER EVERYWHERE Stranded commuters wade through floodwaters along the Alabang-Zapote Road Flyover at the boundary of Las Piñas City and Bacoor, Cavite on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022, after severe Tropical Storm ‘Paeng’ battered the country. PHOTO BY MIKE ALQUINTO

PRESIDENT Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is considering declaring a year-long state of calamity in the Bicol Region, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and other areas badly hit by Storm “Paeng” to speed up the release and use of government assistance.

Marcos is seriously studying the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s (NDRRMC) recommendation to declare a year-long state of calamity in the affected areas, a statement posted on the official Facebook page of the Office of the President (OP) on Sunday said.

NDRRMC Chairman and Department of National Defense Officer in Charge Jose Faustino Jr. has forwarded the draft of its recommendation to the OP.

Faustino, along with Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. and Social Welfare and Development Secretary Erwin Tulfo, conducted an aerial inspection of Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) to assess the destruction from last Saturday’s severe storm.

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“We saw that floodwaters are slowly subsiding and we continue to receive reports from our regional agencies regarding their continuous relief operations,” Faustino said in a separate briefing in Camp Aguinaldo.

He said the President ordered bottled drinking water sent to displaced residents in the BARMM, and added that the immediate restoration of power in hospitals, evacuation centers and offices of frontline agencies is underway.

All national government agencies were ordered to “coordinate with all local government units in all aspects of government response” and “reexamine the timely dissemination of accurate information to the public on forecast, tracking of weather disturbance, and estimated amount of rainfall in order to effectively implement preemptive evacuation to minimize deaths,” Faustino said.

Marcos earlier said the number of deaths caused by massive flooding in Maguindanao was “too high” and that the government “could have done better” in preventing it.

More than 40 people were reported to have been killed in the region.

Abalos said his office has started helping local authorities in BARMM in downloading calamity funds to ensure the swift rescue, recovery, and rehabilitation efforts in the region.

The department is also finding out what else needs to be done, Abalos said.

Faustino said he and other officials will also inspect storm-ravaged areas outside of Luzon.

“After we visit Maguindanao, we will next go to the Visayas for us to also supervise relief efforts there,” he said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development said that as of October 30, 294,938 families were affected by the storm in the Cordillera Administrative Region; Regions 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11; and Calabarzon and Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan).

The agency has so far distributed relief packs and financial assistance worth P23,356,611.81.