Aquino: Rescue, evacuees priority after ‘Pablo’

Rappler.com
President Aquino says government priority remains rescue and care for evacuees after Pablo left at least 166 dead

Children infront of their damaged home in New Bataan, Compostela Valley, December 5, 2012. Photo by Karlos Manlupig.

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III said government priority is rescue and care for evacuees after Typhoon “Pablo” (Bopha) left at least 166 dead in Davao and Compostela Valley.

In a press conference in Manila on Wednesday, December 5,  Aquino said he designated Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II to be in charge of overseeing the response to Pablo in Mindanao.

Roxas is in Davao Oriental as of posting time. The province recorded at least 98 dead.

The President added that government is also assessing why areas identified as less risky are now inundated by floodwaters.  

“We want to know the circumstances of for instance the army unit, why were they based there? Where did a flashflood occur? There’s a report of an evacuation center being hit by a flashflood,” Aquino said in Filipino.

Aquino was referring to reports flash floods washed away an army patrol base in New Bataan, Compostela Valley.

He said he also tasked Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo to find out if the evacuation centers hit by floods in Davao Oriental were previously identified as danger areas.

Aquino said the government still has enough funds to respond to the calamity, with at least P8 billion ready to be spent on emergency infrastructure like repairing damaged roads.

‘Response big improvement’

Aquino cited a “big improvement” in government’s disaster response in Typhoon “Pablo” (Bopha) compared to a devastating typhoon one year ago.

He added that the response this time was a far cry from Typhoon Sendong in December 2011.

Still, Aquino acknowledged that the government still has a lot of work to do, with Pablo leaving at least 166 dead.

“If we compare it to Sendong, there is a huge difference in the number of casualties here. But any single casualty is a cause for distress. We always ask: can we still reduce this?”

Typhoon Sendong killed over 1,000 people when it battered Mindanao last year, with Cagayan de Oro and Iligan being the hardest hit areas.

Aquino credited the government’s Project NOAH or Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards as a factor in the improved disaster response.

“We are far from Sendong. There is a big improvement, the sensors that Project NOAH installed worked, especially for Iligan and Cagayan.”

Aquino, Binay to visit victims

Aquino said he will visit the affected areas soon.

“The ‘when’ is the question I will have to ask my team that is planning the schedule but I really want to go to Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental,” he said in reference to two of Pablo’s hardest hit areas.

In a separate statement, Vice President Jejomar Binay announced that he will fly to Davao and Compostela Valley on Thursday, December 6, to inspect the damage from the typhoon and help in relief efforts.

Binay told ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel, he will meet with the Interior and Social Welfare and Development Departments to discuss the situation.

“Based on our experience during Typhoon Sendong, we will have to coordinate all the government efforts so we can ensure fast and efficient service,” Binay said.

Housing aid, loans available

Binay, chairman of the Housing Urban Development Coordinating Council, said housing agencies will help repair homes and offer calamity loans to victims.

The Vice President urged members of Pag-IBIG Fund to apply for calamity loans, equivalent to 80% of their total savings. He said Pag-IBIG offers the lowest interest rate of calamity loans. 

“Pag-IBIG’s calamity loan now carries a yearly interest rate of 5.95%, compared to the previous 10.75%,” Binay said. – Rappler.com

 

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