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Duterte visits Cagayan, condoles with Ompong-hit families

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – Saying he shares the grief of victims' families, President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in Cagayan on Sunday, September 16, to check on the province after it was hit by Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut).

Duterte went to the Cagayan Provincial Capitol upon his arrival, said a tweet by state-run PTV at around 1 pm on Sunday.

Duterte then met with members of his Cabinet, who gave him updates on the effects of Ompong in various provinces.

The number of people killed by the typhoon so far has risen to 59. The President sent his condolences to the relatives of the victims during the Cabinet meeting.

"I share the grief of those who lost their loved ones. Those are what we would call an unforeseen event. In insurance it is a term for an act of God. I don't know how it can be an act of God, but that is the term used in insurance," said Duterte.

He said he was "very pleased" with the reports from his political adviser Francis Tolentino, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

Duterte had assigned Tolentino to be on top of the government's mobilization for Ompong. The latter set up his command center in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan, where Duterte sent Tugade to monitor the typhoon's effects. Duterte, meanwhile, had sent Bello to Isabela.

During the meeting, Duterte also asked Education Secretary Leonor Briones to work with Tugade to create gymnasiums in schools in Leyte and Samar where evacuees can stay in times of disasters, lessening the period of class disruptions.

The President wants the facilities to have 20 bathrooms – 10 for women, 10 for men – which the evacuees can use instead of staying in classrooms.

"I want maybe [the] DPWH to design it just like a gym, but it cannot be a place for habitation. It's intended to be used [as] evacuation centers, kasi 'pag ganito tayo nang ganito (because if we will always be this way), especially in places [that are] prone [to floods], ang mga bata napuputol ang education (we disrupt the education of children)," said Duterte.

In a press briefing on Sunday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte is "very, very satisfied so far" with government response to Ompong. At the same time, he said, "We are sorry that there are casualties reported in some parts of the Philippines."

All tropical cyclone warning signals had been lifted as of Sunday morning.

Ompong damaged Tuguegarao City's airport and tore off the roof of the Cagayan capitol building.

Government efforts now shift to relief and rebuilding operations. Baggao town in Cagayan suffered the most damage, after Ompong made landfall there on Saturday morning, September 15, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

The typhoon ruined 3 power towers, and an estimated 1,000 houses. Eight barangays became isolated and unreachable by communication. Grain and root crops were also lost from floods and wind. – with reports from Michael Bueza/Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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