Church, Congress raise funds for quake-hit Batanes
MANILA, Philippines — Members of the House of Representatives and the Catholic clergy are raising aid funds for victims of powerful earthquakes that hit the country’s northernmost province of Batanes and killed at least nine people over the weekend.
Batanes officials on Tuesday placed the province under a state of calamity, a day after a similar move was made in the worst-hit town of Itbayat, where Saturday’s quakes also injured 60 people and forced 2,900 others to stay in makeshift shelters at the plaza.
The 300 House members were expected to raise at least P1.5 million from a minimum personal contribution of P5,000, according to Majority Leader Martin Romualdez. The total amount could be much more as some congressmen have indicated they were willing to donate P50,000 to P100,000 from their salaries, he added.
Pangasinan Rep. Christopher de Venecia on Monday night announced that a signature sheet would be circulated among House members where they would also indicate the amounts to be deducted from their salaries as contributions to the relief fund.
The city of Dagupan in De Venecia’s home province has donated P100,000 to Itbayat.
Romualdez said some congressmen also wanted to donate relief goods. Relief supplies collected from congressional staff and other House employees would be deposited at designated spots in the south and north wing lobbies of the Batasan complex.
The humanitarian arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Tuesday appealed to all dioceses to provide financial aid to Batanes.
The CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace/Caritas Philippines released an initial P200,000 for the Batanes prelature’s relief efforts, according to CBCPNews, its official news service.
“Let us help the Prelature of Batanes assist the affected families, and rebuild the church structures,” said Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona, Caritas national director.
The CBCP said donations for its relief fund may be deposited to Caritas Philippines’ Bank of the Philippine Islands account, CBCP Caritas Filipinas Foundation Inc. NASSA, with account No. 4951-0071-08; or to its Metrobank account, CBCP Caritas Filipinas Foundation Inc. with account No. 632-7-63202788-1.
Roldan Cesar Esdicul, Batanes provincial disaster risk reduction and management officer, said the calamity declaration would allow officials to easily draw funds for relief and the construction of emergency shelters.
Don’t return home yet
Itbayat Mayor Raul De Sagon said quake survivors were advised against returning to their damaged homes.
Romualdez’s staff said the money raised and the relief goods would be turned over to Batanes Rep. Ciriaco Gato Jr.
Gato’s office said the things urgently needed by the people in his province included hygiene kits, such as sanitary napkins, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush and hand towels; wet wipes; mosquito repellants; reusable eating utensils; generator sets for water pumping stations; and portable toilets.
Batanes Gov. Marilou Cayco has advised tourists to postpone their trips to Itbayat as it lacks accommodation for visitors at this time.
Cayco also said she would request the National Historical Commission of the Philippines to restore and strengthen the heritage structures that were damaged by the quakes.
Emergency Wi-Fi service
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) on Tuesday said it had provided emergency internet access to Itbayat.
A Wi-Fi access point was installed for emergency workers in line with the government’s interagency disaster response, it said in a statement.
Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan II said the move underscored the need for better internet access in the country’s unserved and underserved areas.
He was referring to the government’s Pipol Konek Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places Project to provide free internet in public spaces across the country.
“We want to make sure Free Wi-Fi is institutionalized in the sense that it will be permanent and we will just install additional Wi-Fi access points since we cannot predict when the next disaster will hit,” Honasan said. —WITH REPORTS FROM MIGUEL R. CAMUS, VILLAMOR VISAYA JR., YOLANDA SOTELO AND JULIE M. AURELIO
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