Aquino forced to land
President on 4-province swing in Central LuzonInquirer Central Luzon
TARLAC CITY—President Benigno Aquino III on Friday inspected the flooded plains of four provinces in Central Luzon, revisiting decades-old plans to build a multipurpose dam after observing that 25 percent of the villages in Tarlac, his home province, was flooded because of this week’s torrential monsoon rains.
In Dinalupihan, Bataan, his second stop on a four-province swing in Central Luzon, Mr. Aquino promised flood victims that experts from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) would study the source of flooding and plug this.
“After the rains stop, the experts from the DPWH will come here to study where the water is coming from, and what can be done to mitigate this. We will come back to present the plan, when we can start it, and when you can expect the results. We’ll fix this, that’s our commitment,” Mr. Aquino said.
But the President, visiting thousands of people huddled in evacuation centers in Central Luzon, surprised local folks on his way to Tarlac when his convoy of helicopters made an unscheduled landing near the freeway.
Heavy rain and poor visibility forced the group of three military and two civilian helicopters ferrying the President and Cabinet officials to make an emergency landing at the Luisita exit of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway in Paniqui town around 9 a.m. Mr. Aquino was on his way to an evacuation center in Paniqui at the time.
“I came in a little late,” the President said to flood victims sheltering at the Apulid evacuation center in Paniqui. “When the helicopter was about to land, the thing they call ceiling [cloud ceiling] went down.”
“The President is fine. Everyone is fine. No one was injured,” Communication Secretary Ricky Carandang said by phone. “While we were in Tarlac, it started to rain and the visibility became poor. The pilots made a decision to land.”
Brig. Gen. Ramon Dizon, commander of the Presidential Security Group, said the cloud ceiling went down as the party was nearing Tarlac. “So to be on the safe side, we landed the choppers before it started to rain,” he said.
With the President on the helicopter were Joel Villanueva of the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority, and Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, according to Carandang.
Carandang said he was on another chopper with Energy Secretary Jose Almendras, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman and Akbayan spokesperson Risa Hontiveros.
From the edge of the freeway, the presidential party motored to the evacuation center in Paniqui.
Mr. Aquino told the evacuees that he brought along Cabinet officials, mentioning Soliman and Singson, to see how they were doing, and look into their short-term and long-term needs.
“I’m very glad to see you so alive and smiling, at that, despite the disaster,” Mr. Aquino said. “Rest assured that the government is ready to help you along.”
From Paniqui, the presidential party proceeded to Sta. Lucia High School in Capas, Tarlac, to visit the evacuees there.
Mr. Aquino thanked the local officials and the private companies that extended aid to the flood victims.
The President said he expected more international aid to pour in for the evacuees.
“Our government is ready. We still have funds for calamities as well as the quick response funds to take care of all of you,” Mr. Aquino said.
The President also visited evacuation centers in Dinalupihan, Bataan; San Fernando, Pampanga, and Bulacan.
The government would attend to the needs of flood victims in evacuation centers in many parts of Luzon, Mr. Aquino said.
Twenty-eight of the 48 barangays in Dinalupihan were submerged in floodwaters.
Malacañang said Dinalupihan Mayor Joel Jaime Payumo asked for budget allocation from the President to finance repairs on dams and schools damaged by the flooding.
Help for Pampanga
Mr. Aquino next motored to San Fernando, Pampanga, home province of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to assure flood victims there of continued government assistance.
In Malolos, Bulacan, the President told flood victims that the government would undertake projects that would mitigate, if not stop, flooding.
“We’re not talking of months here. This is an extensive project and it has many components. This will probably take years to complete. Just the same, we’ll try to mitigate the floods,” Mr. Aquino said.
The President helped to distribute relief goods at the evacuation centers he visited.
110 villages flooded
In its latest report, the provincial disaster risk reduction and management council of Tarlac said 110 of the 500 villages in 10 of 17 towns and Tarlac City are flooded. The floods affected 65,680 people (15,633 families).
Discussing the Balog-Balog Multipurpose Dam with officials in Capas, Mr. Aquino said he wanted to see new plans for the project, which would improve the dam’s water containment capacity.
Mr. Aquino reassured the people of his home province that the government was looking for permanent solutions for the perennial floods.
He made the same assurance in Paniqui earlier, focusing on the construction of permanent evacuation centers for Barangays Salomangui, Apulid and San Isidro.
Paniqui Mayor Miguel Rivilla said his town had been at the receiving end of silted river systems that should otherwise flow to Lingayen Gulf.
In the afternoon, the President motored to the City of San Fernando in Pampanga to assure residents that funds are available to help them recover and to rehabilitate disaster-stricken areas.
“We have funds for our quick response. The government is ready to help,” Mr. Aquino told some 1,000 evacuees at Sto. Niño Elementary School in San Fernando.
Manny Pangilinan in Pampanga
Businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan traveled to Pampanga on Friday and distributed 2,000 food packs to flood victims in San Fernando and the towns of Sto. Tomas, Minalin and his hometown of Apalit.
Maynilad, an affiliate company of Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific Investment Corp., also drove a large tanker to Sto. Tomas to distribute drinking water. Reports from Tonette Orejas, Jo Martinez-Clemente and Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon; and TJ Burgonio in Manila
First posted 12:55 am | Saturday, August 11th, 2012