Priority is clearing roads, runway for relief operations
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have prioritized the clearing of roads and the runway in Eastern Samar to facilitate the delivery of relief supplies and materials.
A few hours after the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) made the statement in a news briefing on Sunday, December 7, the military reported that it has cleared a major road.
Major General Jet Velarmino, commander of the 8th Infantry Battalion, told Rappler on Sunday that the road blocked by a landslide in Jiabong town, on the western side of Samar, was cleared at around 2:30 pm on Sunday. This would pave the way for the arrival of relief goods, medicine, and medical teams to Borongan in Eastern Samar on Monday, December 8.
The AFP earlier said that two C130 planes would be deployed to Samar as soon as the weather and the situation permit it. (READ: 2 C-130 planes will head to Samar after Ruby)
In Manila, Undersecretary Alexander Pama, administrator of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and NDRRMC executive director, said in a noontime news briefing that the current government priority is the clearing operations.
Pama added: "As soon as we get the go signal, aircraft from Cebu and from here in Manila – the C130s – are ready to go. We are already planning the loading for these aircrafts based on requirements on the ground." (READ: Two C-130 planes will head to Samar after Ruby)
AFP Chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr said troops have begun clearing operations in the crucial roads of Borongan in Eastern Samar and Catarman in Northern Samar.
"The ground units are clearing airports and major thoroughfares, the north and south of Borongan and the east and west of Catarman, to ensure that the airport will be available for disaster response operations," Catapang said.
Once the weather clears, the Philippine Air Force will also send a team to clear the airstrip in Borongan, where the first C130 cargo plane carrying relief will land. Catarman will be the alternate airport.
"Weather permitting, the Central Command will dispatch an Air Force team to assess the situation of Borongan airstrip. We will make Catarman an alternate airport to accomodate C-130 and other aircrafts for the immediate bringing in of supplies and other resources neeed by our Filipinos brothers and sisters in the devastated area," Catapang added.
He said a Philippine Navy cargo boat loaded with relief suppies is also in Cebu and will sail to Eastern Visayas as soon as the weather improves.
The NDRRMC based in Tacloban City will be transferred to Borongan, Eastern Samar, as soon as the roads are cleared.
Among the major roads that are not passable as of 8 am on Sunday are the following:
Calbayog Catarman via Lope De Vega Road (due to uprooted trees
Catarman-Allen Road due to fallen electric posts
Catarman-Calbayog Road due to floods
Junction Taft-Oras-San Policarpio-Arteche Road due to voluminous debris
Eastern Samar, where Typhoon Ruby first made landfall, is now the distribution hub in the aftermath of the typhoon.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development field office in Eastern Visayas is also waiting for the roads to be cleared.
DSWD Assistant Secretary Vilma Cabrera said 20 trucks loaded with various food items will head to the coastal provinces of Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, and other parts of Leyte and Tacloban as soon as the roads are passable.
Cabrera said 8 quick response teams are also ready for deployment.
The NDRRMC reported that there are about 700,000 evacuees nationwide although thousands have since returned home, particularly in Southern Leyte where all evacuees left the evacuation centers as soon as the weather cleared.
Pama assured the typhoon victims that relief is coming. "Huwag po kayong mag-alala kung sa tingin ni'yo baka maubusan po kayo. Darating po 'yan, kung hindi man sa araw na ito, sa mga susunod na araw. Kung may delay man po, ang dahilan ng delay ay ang kalye na hindi pa madaanan. Doon ang emphasis natin ngayon sa road clearing operations.
(Don't fear that you wouldn't get any relief goods. It will come, it not today, in the coming days. If there would be any delay, this is because the roads are impassable. So our emphasis now is the road clearing operations.)
Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II is leading the government response in Eastern Visayas, as part of the National Government Frontline Team. – with reports from Pia Ranada/Rappler.com
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