MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Benigno Aquino III declared a state of national calamity 3 days after Super Typhoon Yolanda ravaged several regions in the Philippines, and just a few hours after lawmakers from hard-hit Leyte asked for it. (READ: '10,000' feared dead in Leyte - police)
In a national address delivered on prime time television on Monday, November 11, Aquino said, "We declare a state of national calamity to hasten the action of the government to rescue, provide help, and rehabilitate the provinces affected by Yolanda."
"This is important not just to control prices of primary products and services needed by our countrymen, but also to avoid overpricing and hoarding of important goods," he said.
Aquino said the government also approved P1.1 billion to add to the Quick Response Fund of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Public Works and Highways, "to immediately provide the support needed to help our countrymen recover from this tragedy."
The President addressed the country in similar fashion on November 7, a day before the typhoon was expected to hit, warning residents that the super typhoon was serious risk and that residents should not take chances.
Aquino issued Proclamation No. 682 or Memorandum Circular 56, "Declaring a State of National Calamity," due to the "widespread death, destruction, and incalculable damage in several areas, including the Samar provinces, Leyte, Cebu, Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, and Palawan" caused by the typhoon.
The proclamation further said: "In accordance with Republic Act No. 10121, or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has recommended the declaration of a State of National Calamity" in order "to hasten the rescue, recovery, relief, and rehabilitation efforts of the government and the private sector, including any international humanitarian assistance."
A state of calamity is defined by the law as "a condition involving mass casualty and/or major damages to property, disruption of means of livelihoods, roads and normal way of life of people in the affected areas as a result of the occurrence of natural or human-induced hazard.”
According to the Official Gazette of the Philippine government, the last time a state of national calamity was declared was on Dec 7, 2012, after Typhoon Pablo hit parts of the country and left massive devastation.
The country was also placed under a state of national calamity in December 2011 after Tropical Storm Sendong, and in October 2009 after Typhoon Ondoy.
The announcement comes after the independent bloc in the House of Representatives and lawmakers from Leyte filed a resolution urging Aquino 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).
The declaration allows price control for basic necessities and prime commodities, the granting of no-interest loans, and the appropriation for calamity funds among others.
As of early Monday evening, at least 5 provinces, 6 municipalities, and 1 city have been placed under state of calamity, mostly in Western Visayas, Central Visayas, and Mimaropa.
In his speech, Aquino said while other Yolanda-hit areas – like Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Negros Occidental, Palawan, Aklan, and Romblon – had few casualties because the local governments were able to prepare, other areas, specifically Leyte and Samar, sustained massive damage.
"Where they were hit by the storm surge of Yolanda, we saw the biggest damage and it is here where our relief efforts are focused," he said.
Aquino also appealed for understanding, saying the lack of electricity and communication in many places not only made it difficult for Filipinos to check in on their loved ones, "but also affected the coordination of relief efforts."
The President said the national government had taken over in places rendered unreachable by the storm, and said it would distribute resources through villages.
Aquino said 24,000 family food packs d been distributed in Tacloban on Sunday, while P18.7 billion had been set aside from calamity funds, contingency funds, and savings for places hit by Yolanda. He said 22 foreign countries had provided aid.
Aquino vowed that in the coming days, victims "can expect quicker attention and help."
"My message: Staying calm, prayer, and helping each other are what will lift us from this challenge," he said.
Rescue, recovery, relief
The proclamation ordered government departments and other concerned agencies "to implement and execute rescue, recovery, relief, and rehabilitation work in accordance with pertinent operational plans and directives."
It read: "All departments and other concerned government agencies are also hereby directed to coordinate with, and provide or augment the basic services and facilities of, affected local government units. Law enforcement agencies, with support from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, are directed to undertake all necessary measures to ensure peace and order in affected areas, as may be necessary."
According to law, the state of national calamity remains in effect until lifted by the President.
In an earlier press conference also on Monday in Makati City, Leyte 1st district Representative Martin Romualdez, whose district includes the hardest-hit Tacloban City, appealed to the President and the House leadership to support their call to declare a state of national calamity.
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.
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. - Rappler.com
Get the latest info on the status of areas (http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/issues/disasters/typhoon-yolanda/43350-aftermath-yolanda-what-we-know) affected by typhoon Yolanda (international codename: Haiyan).
Help the victims of Yolanda. Visit Rappler's list of ongoing relief operations (http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/issues/disasters/43300-reliefph-victims-typhoon-yolanda-help) in your area. Tell us about your relief and recovery initiatives, email email@example.com or tweet us @moveph.