Leyte solons ask Aquino to declare state of nat’l calamity

The Palace reserves comment on the proposal, suggest that a state of calamity be declared in the province first

APPEAL. (From left) Leyte Rep Martin Romualdez, Tacloban councilor Cristina Gonzales-Romualdez and the lawmaker's wife, Yedda. Photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The independent bloc in the House of Representatives and lawmakers from Leyte has filed a resolution requesting President Benigno Aquino III to place the country under a state of national calamity as the Visayas island continues to reel from the effects of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international codename Haiyan).

In a press conference on Monday, November 11, in Makati City, Leyte 1st district Representative Martin Romualdez, whose district includes the hardest-hit Tacloban City, said they are appealing to the President and the House leadership to support their call. 

House Resolution No. 445 was signed by Leyte representatives Martin Romualdez, Lucy Torres Gomez, Sergio Apostol, Andres Salvacion, and Jose Carlos Cari.

Members of the House independent bloc – Pampanga Rep Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and son Camarines Sur Rep Diosdado Arroyo, Buhay Rep Lito Atienza, ABAKADA Rep Jonathan dela Cruz, La Union Rep Victor Ortega, Surigao del Sur Rep Philip Pichay, Cavite Rep Lani Mercado-Revilla, Quezon Rep Aleta Suarez, Navotas Rep Toby Tiangco, and Bohol Rep Arthur Yap.

Malacañang, however, reserved comment on the proposal.

Placing the country under a state of national calamity allows the government to control the prices of basic necessities and prime commodities, as well as release automatic appropriation for the calamity fund and grant non-interest loans to the victims. 

Romualdez said they are also urging Aquino to propose a supplemental budget to Congress to fund the relief efforts for all areas devastated by the typhoon.

More than 10,000 people were believed to have died in Leyte alone, although some 10 other provinces were affected by one of the world’s strongest recorded cyclones.

Two days after the storm, communication and power lines in most affected areas continue to be cut off. 

At least 5 provinces have declared a state of calamity: Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental – all in Western Visayas.

Leyte is in Eastern Visayas.

In a separate press briefing, Malacañang reserved comment on the proposal to declare a state of calamity. Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said it might be more urgent for Leyte to declare a state of calamity in the province. 

“As far as declaring a national [state of calamity], I’m not a lawyer, [but] why would we need to do that? For funds? As the President said, there is balance in the calamity fund, there is still balance in the social fund. It’s good that the President is resourceful in using his funds,” Almendras said. (READ: President’s ‘pork,’ savings to fund Yolanda efforts)

Earlier, officials of Tacloban asked the President to even consider declaring a state of emergency, even martial law, in the city to prevent the breakdown of law and order.

With communication and power still scarce, aid workers are having a hard time reaching some areas, and Yolanda survivors are increasingly becoming desperate for aid.

One of the provinces that have yet to receive relief assistance is Eastern Samar, where two towns were left in ruins, with at least 200 residents feared dead. – Rappler.com

Help the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (international codename: Haiyan). Visit Rappler’s list of ongoing relief operations in your area. Tell us about your relief and recovery initiatives, emailmove.ph@rappler.com or tweet us @moveph.

Visit rappler.com/typhoon-yolanda for the latest updates on Typhoon Yolanda.

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