Government troops, Red Cross, volunteers work overtime
Emergency workers and troops Wednesday rushed food, water and clothes to nearly 850,000 people displaced and marooned by floods brought on by 12 straight days of monsoon rains that sank Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
About 60 percent of Metro Manila, home to about 12 million people, remained inundated Wednesday, according to Benito Ramos, head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
Financial markets reopened after being shut on Tuesday, but schools and many businesses remained shut for a second straight day with the military, police and civic officials struggling to deliver aid as floodwaters swept through the city turning major roads into rivers.
Still, many people were reluctant to leave flooded homes, fearing a loss of valuables, officials said.
“We’re also asking people living along swollen riverbanks to evacuate,” Ramos said. “If there is a need for us to force them to leave their homes, we will do that for their own safety.”
Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said the government had started drawing up plans to permanently relocate residents along riverbanks and coastal areas to reduce property losses and loss of lives during the rest of the typhoon and monsoon season.
The NDRRMC said it had distributed food, water, clothes and medicines to people marooned inside flooded homes and at temporary shelters.
Seeing the extent of the flooding in the metropolis, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman called for volunteers to help distribute relief goods in hard-hit areas.
Soliman said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) needed volunteers to help in repacking the goods.
Volunteers may go to the DSWD-National Resource Operations Center at Naia Chapel Road, Pasay City (beside the Airport Police Department) or call 852-8081 and 851-2681; the DSWD-NCR office on Legarda Street in Sampaloc, Manila, telephone 734-86-40; and the DSWD-Region IV-A (Calabarzon) in Alabang, Muntinlupa, telephone 807-4144.
Soliman said priority would be given to critical areas in Metro Manila and Central Luzon in the distribution of relief.
As of 6 a.m. Wednesday, the DSWD had given out P7.93 million in relief to families affected by the flood.
The DSWD had 294 evacuation centers in the hard-hit regions where 31,379 families, or 149,050 people, had taken shelter. In addition, 48,536 families, or 244,424 people, were in temporary shelters not run by the DSWD but also received help.
In Metro Manila, the DSWD reported that 16,503 families, or 77,918 people, were affected by the flooding. The department said 14,225 families, or 68,372 people, were in 107 evacuation centers.
In Central Luzon, the DSWD said 208,016 families, or 822,312 people, were affected by the rains and floods.
The department said it had 59 evacuation centers in the region where 3,358 families, or 14,160 people, were staying.
Outside the evacuation centers, the department said 5,376 families, or 26,384 people, were affected and also received help from the government.
Red Cross rescue
The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) reported the rescue of 1,047 people and the evacuation of more than 8,000 others in the cities of Valenzuela, Caloocan and Manila, and the province of Rizal.
PRC chairman Richard Gordon ordered the deployment of life-saving equipment such as amphibian vehicles, rubber boats, ambulances and trucks to help in the rescue operations in hard-hit areas.
The PRC called on the public for donations to the relief effort. Migrant workers’ groups and nongovernmental organizations reactivated a project called Task Force Obrero to help. The task force called for donations. Food and other donations may be brought to the task force’s headquarters at 63 Narra St., Project 4, Quezon City.
US, EU help
International organizations yesterday began to pitch in, sending aid to worst-hit areas.
The US government was the first foreign donor, offering $100,000 (P4.3 million) in aid to support relief operations in Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces.
“On behalf of the US government and the American people, I extend my heartfelt sympathies to those who are displaced and who have lost homes and livelihoods due to the floods,” US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas said in a statement.
The statement from the US Embassy said the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) would assess damage in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces to determine priority areas for relief and see what affected communities needed most.
“As a good friend and long-standing development partner, the United States will work with the Philippine government to determine where our assistance is most needed,” Thomas said. “We remain committed to helping the Philippine people overcome this difficult time.”
The European Union has dispatched a humanitarian aid expert to determine how its delegation in the Philippines could extend assistance to communities in distress.
Lubomir Frebort, charge d’affaires of the EU delegation, issued a statement extending the EU’s sympathy to the more 850,000 Filipinos whose lives have been disrupted by the relentless rains.
As emergency workers fanned out yesterday to distribute relief, the Department of Budget and Management said it was ready to give budget increases to agencies involved in disaster response.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said P3 billion in “quick response funds” was given to the departments of social welfare, health, defense, public works, education and agriculture.
“These funds are readily available to enable national government agencies to immediately respond to the needs of localities and citizens affected by calamities,” Abad said.
“We are ready to augment these [funds, as well as] the calamity fund if needed,” he said. “We have enough savings that can be realigned to support disaster response and rehabilitation.”
This year’s budget includes P7.5 billion spending for calamities. In addition, there’s P291.8 million in calamity spending that was not used last year.
Abad explained that unlike in previous years, when quick response funds were lumped together with the calamity fund, the 2012 budget allocated quick response funds separately from departmental budgets.
He said P10.5 billion had been appropriated for the calamity fund and quick response funds, compared to P5 billion in calamity fund in the 2011 budget.
Abad said that of the calamity fund for this year, P5.95 billion remained, and this could be released for disaster response and rehabilitation.
The House of Representatives, which controls the national purse, is watching the situation, and has seen no need to rush extra spending to deal with the widespread calamity caused by days of relentless rains.
No supplemental budget
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte observed that disaster response this time was better than in 2009 when Tropical Storm “Ondoy” sank Metro Manila and surrounding provinces.
Belmonte said the government had enough in the budget to fund relief, rescue and recovery efforts.
“We’re still assessing this case,” Belmonte said. “It’s not yet over,” he added. “My own thinking is there’s no need for a supplemental budget.” Reports from Tarra Quismundo, Leila B. Salaverria, Cynthia D. Balana, Marlon Ramos, Jerome Aning and Ronnel W. Domingo
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