Focus gov’t resources on areas hit by typhoon – Duterte
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered concerned government agencies to prioritize the restoration of electricity and communication services in areas battered by Typhoon Odette (international name: Rai), the immediate deployment of additional health personnel to these areas, and the provision of emergency food aid and temporary shelters for victims of this natural calamity.
Cabinet Secretary and acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles on Sunday said the president gave this directive after personally assessing the damage caused by Odette during his visits to Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte and Dinagat Islands in Mindanao and Maasin City, Southern Leyte, in the Visayas on Saturday.
In a statement, Nograles said Duterte, during his meeting with officials of Surigao del Norte and Dinagat, had designated Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista as the crisis manager in the two provinces.
Bautista will be assisted by Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad, administrator of the Office of Civil Defense and executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. They were directed to facilitate the immediate delivery of food and nonfood items to the affected areas and implement food-for-work and cash-for-work programs to help typhoon victims.
Nograles said the president also instructed the Department of Energy (DOE) to fast-track the restoration of power supply and the Department of Information and Communications Technology to quickly augment mobile cell sites in affected areas.
The DOE said it was aiming to fully restore power in all provinces hit by the typhoon before Christmas Day, leaving only five days for the repair and replacement of damaged transmission lines and power plants.
Since the initial assessment on Saturday, the number of households that lost power has swelled from 600,000 to 1.2 million—equivalent to a population of 6 million, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) reported.
It said the entire Eastern Visayas experienced power outages following Odette’s onslaught, but efforts were already underway to bring electric cooperatives back up and running.
In a separate report, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines said most of its transmission lines in the Visayas and Mindanao were damaged. Assessment of the full extent of the damage has been difficult, it said because communication lines were also down.
As for electric cooperatives that supply power to most of the affected provinces, NEA Emergency Restoration Plan Manager Gerardo Pomoy said 32 were already back to normal operations while 10 reported partial power interruption, 19 recorded total power outage, and 12 have yet to submit updates.
Initial assessment showed that affected electric cooperatives incurred combined losses of about P7 million from the typhoon.
According to Pomoy, 10 electric cooperatives in Luzon are on standby, ready to dispatch power to affected areas once transmission lines are fixed.
National Power Corp. (Napocor), which provides power to island provinces, reported that 33 power plants and barges could still not operate while 55 were either partially or fully restored.
To speed up the repair of power lines in the areas battered by Odette, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate energy committee, called on NEA to tap a P200-million emergency fund for the extension of assistance to electric cooperatives.
Gatchalian said the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund, created under Republic Act No. 11039, should be used to provide quick relief to affected cooperatives.
The availability of the fund means the cooperatives would not have to pass on to their consumers their rehabilitation costs, Gatchalian said.
Reopening of airports
In the meantime, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) has been working on the resumption of airport operations in areas hit by Odette.
Capt. Jim Syndiongco, Caap director general, said in a statement on Sunday that a technical team would evaluate the repair works needed for airports in Siargao, Surigao, Maasin, and Mactan, which were temporarily shut down due to the typhoon.
Syndiongco said Caap was also looking for sources of funds for the repair of affected airports.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said all transport agencies had been mandated to ensure that Mr. Duterte’s directive to provide all help to affected areas and the typhoon victims would be immediately implemented.
According to Nograles, the President had directed the use of all government resources to ensure that the goods are delivered to those areas as soon as possible.
He said the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard would be sending vessels to help in the delivery of needed supplies, equipment, and food to Dinagat and Siargao.
The presidential yacht, BRP Ang Pangulo, will also be sent to Dinagat and Siargao to serve as a floating hospital, he said, adding that the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Eastern Mindanao Command had also committed to send medical teams onboard two Navy ships while the Department of Health would send needed medical supplies and health personnel.
For Southern Leyte, the president directed the Department of Agriculture to provide boats and seedlings to affected fisherfolk and farmers.
He also asked government housing agencies to provide assistance to families who lost their houses.
—WITH REPORTS FROM DJ YAP AND JANE BAUTISTA
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.