Hit by 3 typhoons, Luzon should be under state of calamity – NDRRMC tells Duterte | Inquirer News

Hit by 3 typhoons, Luzon should be under state of calamity – NDRRMC tells Duterte

/ 04:59 AM November 17, 2020

Muddy roads are seen in these row houses, which were submerged up to the second floors or their rooftops for two days, at Capitol Hills in Alibagu, Ilagan City. (VILLAMOR VISAYA JR.)

The country’s disaster management agency has recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte the declaration of a state of calamity on the entire island of Luzon amid widespread devastation caused by three successive typhoons.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council arrived at the decision on Monday after an assessment of the damage caused to the main Philippine island by Typhoons Quinta (international name: Molave) and Rolly (Goni) in late October and early November, and Ulysses (Vamco) last week.


Placing the whole of Luzon under a state of calamity would enable the national and the local governments to deal with the “impacts of the latest typhoons to hit the country,” said Ricardo Jalad, the council’s executive director.


Submitted to President

Jalad said the recommendation was submitted to the President on Monday.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the council head, directed the state weather service Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration to revisit its historical data to strengthen its warnings about approaching storms.

He stressed the importance of quickly bringing aid to people displaced by the typhoons and to farmers and fishermen who lost their crops and boats in the devastation caused by the storms, clearing roads of landslides, rebuilding and other responses for recovery.

More than 152,000 people were still in evacuation centers and over 260 villages remained submerged in floodwaters in Cagayan province on Monday.

The Department of Agriculture said Ulysses caused P2.53 billion in damage to crops, farms and agricultural infrastructure.

The national disaster management council also agreed to convene a technical working group of the joint prevention, mitigation, and preparedness clusters to assess the current management of dams in the light of extensive flooding in Cagayan and Isabela provinces partly blamed on the spilling of water from Magat Dam, which the typhoons had overstocked.


Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced that a new government group headed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea would focus on the recovery and rehabilitation of typhoon-ravaged areas.

‘Build back better’

The executive order for the “Build Back Better” Task Force was being drafted, Roque said, adding that the President’s decision to form the new government body was necessary because the effects of destructive typhoons that hit the country every year required “interventions that involve a whole of government approach, as well as immediate solutions outside of the current bureaucratic framework.”

He said the national disaster management council was not enough. “The successive calamities, I think, makes the task force a necessity already. What the President wants is to hasten the delivery of assistance to the people … during calamities,” he told a news briefing.

The new task force will be a more permanent body that will focus on rehabilitation and recovery of typhoon-hit areas while the proposed Department of Disaster Resilience is not yet in place, he said.

“‘Build back better’ will be the main theme of our recovery and rehabilitation efforts, which are anchored on the restoration and transformation of vulnerable areas to more resilient, integrated and sustainable communities,” Roque said.

It was the theme of the rebuilding program launched by the administration of President Benigno Aquino III after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) flattened entire villages in Eastern Visayas in November 2013, leaving thousands of people homeless, more than 6,000 dead, and over 1,700 missing.

Task force members

Roque identified the other members of the new task force as the departments of agriculture, public works and highways, budget and management, social welfare, the National Irrigation Administration, National Electrification Administration and National Housing Authority.

He said the new body would not duplicate the functions of the national disaster management council and that its head, the executive secretary, would have the power to make decisions without convening the council.

Rescue and relief operations continued in Cagayan and Isabela on Monday, with the Cagayan provincial government getting help from the Philippine Air Force in delivering food and supplies to residents stranded by floods in villages in the towns of Enrile, Baggao, Amulung, Alcala, Lal-lo and Santo Niño.

More than a third of Cagayan’s population of 1.2 million have been displaced by the worst flooding to hit the province in 45 years, provincial officials said.

In Isabela, Gov. Rodolfo Albano III said one-fifth of the province remained submerged in floodwaters.

He said water coming from 38 tributaries of the Cagayan River contributed to the widespread flooding in Isabela.

“This is the only time the Cagayan River swelled to this magnitude,” Albano said.

Magat Dam, in Ramon town, opened seven floodgates at the height of Ulysses to release water, worsening the flooding in Isabela and nearby areas. The dam sits on the Magat River, a major tributary of the Cagayan River.

Death toll clarified

Albano said the dam operators had informed the provincial government before releasing water from the dam to prevent it from bursting.

Meanwhile, the national disaster management council reported slightly fewer deaths from Ulysses on Monday, clarifying that its executive director, Jalad, relied on a “raw report” when he told the President on Sunday that 69 people died in the storm.

Council spokesperson Mark Timbal said the death toll was 67 and that the two deaths in Cagayan reported by Jalad were unconfirmed. But the two deaths would be included in the count “once validation is done,” he said.

In Isabela, the provincial disaster management office reported on Monday that the severe flooding caused damage to agriculture worth P143 million.

The agriculture department in Manila said torrential rain generated by Ulysses left thousands of hectares of agricultural land submerged in floodwaters.

More than 73,000 farmers and fishermen and 71,466 hectares of farmland were affected, resulting in 109,117 metric tons of lost produce, the department said.

The disaster in Cagayan and Isabela prompted lawmakers to call on the government on Monday to lay down long-term policies to deal with flooding caused by typhoons.

Kabayan Rep. Ron Salo said the government should deal with not only the effects but also the cause of flooding.

The President on Sunday ordered an investigation into illegal mining and logging, which he blamed for the disastrous flooding in Cagayan and Isabela.

Permanent solution to flooding

At a hearing held by the House special committee on the North Luzon growth triangle on Monday, Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo said it was time the Philippines “looked for permanent solution to flooding.”

Baguio Rep. Mark Go said the government should introduce measures for safe spilling of water from dams.

“If the water will be released, it should be channeled away from our roads and homes. It’s not OK that you just inform [the people] so they can evacuate,” Go said.

Cagayan Rep. Joseph Lara cited the need to “communicate better” early flood warnings to residents in harm’s way.

Also on Monday, 19 foreign and local business groups released a joint statement saying the damage caused by recent typhoons could have been minimized had the country been more prepared to face disasters.

The groups — including the American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, Bankers Association of the Philippines and Management Association of the Philippines — said the country should deal with climate change and other environmental concerns.

“We express serious concern about the state of our country’s disaster preparedness that could have minimized the untimely deaths of our countrymen, and avoided massive damage and destruction of property,” they said.

“But even as we express this concern, we urge our countrymen to move forward in a coordinated and efficient fashion to mitigate the ill-effects of the recent typhoons, and prevent further loss of life and damage to property and the economy,” they added.

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Reports from Jeannette I. Andrade, Leila B. Salaverria, Karl Ocampo, Julie M. Aurelio, Villamor Visaya Jr. and Stephen Roy C. Canivel

TAGS: Goni, Molave, NDRRMC, Rodrigo Duterte, Vamco

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