MANILA, Philippines - In anticipation of typhoon “Juan,” the government decided to take a pro-active stance in efforts to come up with a low casualty count by delivering relief goods in advance to areas directly in the storm’s path.
“We have already made a pre-positioning of goods as per instructions of the President that will be good for seven days, instead of the usual three, to Isabela and Cagayan provinces,” Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said.
Soliman told reporters that they have already prepared goods in Isabela and Cagayan just in case lines of transport or communications are cut off.
So far, a total of 186 families who were “voluntary evacuees” in seven barangays were transferred to four evacuation centers – Santa Maria town in Isabela and three municipalities in Cagayan, Santa Ana, Aparri and Gonzaga.
Soliman said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is adopting 24-hour operations and has already pre-positioned close to 2,000 family packs at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.
“So that if there’s no need to add and airlift after the storm we are prepared in coordination with Gen. (Benito) Ramos. We also have P2 million ready to be downloaded if necessary,” she added.
The pre-positioning of goods has also been made in other affected areas such as Ilocos Norte, Kalinga and Apayao, apart from Cagayan and Isabela.
Northern provinces on alert
The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) in Pangasinan was placed on heightened alert and their water search and rescue teams (WASAR) are on standby for possible rescue operations.
Equipment such as rubber boats, dump trucks and ambulances were also placed on standby.
PDRRMC executive director Paterno Orduña advised the people through radio to be on alert and appealed to fishermen not to risk their lives and safety.
He also reminded residents in low-lying areas not to take the typhoon’s strength for granted.
Orduña said a team from the regional Coast Guard came to the province Sunday night and stationed at the Narciso Ramos Complex in Lingayen.
He said the provincial government is also coordinating with personnel of the San Roque Dam to strictly follow the protocol on water releases to avoid a repeat of the mistake last year when typhoon “Pepeng” devastated the province.
Butch Velasco, provincial information officer, said the PDRRMC has been on full alert since Sunday and has deployed personnel and equipment to three advance command posts in Alaminos City for Western Pangasinan, in Tayug town for Eastern Pangasinan, and Lingayen town Central Pangasinan.
Police Superintendent Harris Fama, deputy provincial director for operations, said police Senior Supt. Rosueto Ricaforte, Pangasinan police director, has directed all the chiefs of police to advise residents in their areas to be on alert, especially those near rivers and mountains.
In Pampanga, Gov. Lilia Pineda has instructed disaster response teams to be on alert even as the province has been placed on storm signal no. 1.
“We should always be prepared and not be caught flatfooted like just what happened when typhoon ‘Ondoy’ battered the country,” she said.
Pineda also directed Chief Superintendent Alan Purisima, Central Luzon police director, to prepare the deployment of rubber boats, speed boats, trucks and other equipment to areas commonly affected by heavy flood during times of calamity.
Provincial Disaster Management Office (PDMO) personnel started monitoring the progress of the typhoon, particularly its accompanying rains and gusty winds, and how it affects critical areas in the province, especially the coastal and upland areas.
Purisima, also chairman of the Regional Disaster and Coordinating Council (RDCC), met with all concerned government agencies and identified low-lying areas in the region.
He asked residents there to evacuate temporarily due to the onslaught of the typhoon.
The RDCC has already prepared and identified evacuation centers for residents that will be affected by flooding.
All hands on deck
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has converted its Civil Relations Service (CRS) into a relief operations hub in order to collect donated goods and other supplies for families affected by typhoon Juan in Northern Luzon.
Since its activation yesterday, the AFP-CRS opened its doors to those who are willing to donate relief goods for hundreds of families affected by the typhoon, according to Maj. Oliver Banaria of CRS.
“Donations for the relief efforts may be dropped off directly at the CRSAFP headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo,” Banaria said.
Among the immediate requirements needed by would-be displaced families are clothes, dry food, water, medicines, shoes, slippers and blankets.
Elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP), on the other hand, have already helped in evacuation of residents in the three regions that were hit by the typhoon.
Chief Superintendent Francisco Villaroman, director of Police Regional Office, said strong winds with moderate to strong rains were experienced in most parts of Cagayan Valley and local police are still conducting roving patrol to check on the safety of the people.
He had also alerted all residents in low-lying areas for possible forced evacuation, even while Magat River and Tao-tao River have normal water levels.
Villaroman said a man drowned in Barangay Namabbalan Norte, Tuguegarao but the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said they will still verify the information.
The PNP placed the entire Luzon area on full alert to ensure enough police forces could be deployed to assist local residents.
PNP chief Director General Raul Bacalzo issued letter of instruction Saklolo for police regional and provincial offices to implement disaster risk reduction and management plans.
The PNP in the affected regions is also closely coordinating with governors and mayors to ensure the safety of the people.
National calamity fund proposed
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), meanwhile, proposed the pooling of the national calamity fund to help local government units (LGUs) ensure that resources would be readily available for emergency response.
Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said the funds would also cover rehabilitation and reconstruction in the event of a disaster.
Robredo noted that the proposed project dubbed as “Paluwagan para sa Paghahanda sa Kalamidad” is similar to the concept of saving for a “paluwagan,” an agreement in which members pool money at a scheduled time and take turns in receiving the pooled amount.
“This concept of disaster risk pooling has been successful in other countries,” he said. “At present, the national calamity fund is inadequate and access to it by LGUs is limited.”
The World Bank-assisted Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) quantified Philippine damage and losses sustained in the aftermath of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng at P206 billion or $4.38 billion.
Robredo said the larger funding mechanism that would merge the national and local calamity funds may be invested and leveraged in the capital markets through international reinsurance, contingent credit arrangements, or catastrophe bonds.
He said the merged fund will be independently managed by a third-party fund manager, who will be accountable to the national government and the local governments at the same time.
The project, according to him, will give LGUs better access to and discretion in the use of funds since they are in a better position to know which areas and sectors badly need disaster intervention.
Robredo said the amounts paid into the pool by participating LGUs may be a fixed percentage of their calamity funds or may depend on their individual exposure to the covered hazards.
Under the proposal, the guidelines for the use of the pool of funds may be governed by the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, and the Department of Finance may serve as an oversight agency.
Delon Porcalla, Philippine Star