National government officials got an earful from Antique’s local chief executives – from a dearth in food aid to the absence of agriculture officials – during a briefing hosted by the Office of Civil Defense in Western Visayas on Wednesday, November 2.
After Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Undersecretary Alan Tanjusay talked in general terms about food relief packs and cash assistance, and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s instructions to make sure “walang maiiwan (no one is left behind),” Antique Governor Rhodora Cadiao pointed out that the province received only 2,000 food packs for 174,000 residents affected by Severe Tropical Storm Paeng (Nalgae).
“Two thousand boxes lang napadala ng DSWD. Not unless you coordinated with other offices,” Cadiao said, adding that she and Antique Representative Antonio Legarda Jr. had to divide the available supplies.
“Lagi na lang po na kapag may mga national na ayuda (Every time the national government gives out aid), Antique is always left behind,” the governor said. “All our mayors are asking from us, and the provincial government just doesn’t have enough.”
The other national officials who attended the briefing at the Evelio B. Javier Airport in San Jose, Antique, were Department of National Defense Officer-in-Charge Jose Faustino Jr., who also chairs the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC); Public Works Secretary Manuel Bonoan, Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos, and Civil Defense Administrator Undersecretary Raymundo Ferrer.
The national officials left with “a basketful” of urgent woes, including unreleased cash assistance to small farmers, washed out roads and bridges, the lack of heavy equipment that make it difficult to reach isolated villages, and dwindling supply of fuel.
An hour after the meeting, Marcos signed a proclamation declaring a state of calamity in Calabarzon, Bicol, Western Visayas, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Laua-an Mayor Aser Samillano Baladjay informed Bonoan that it is not just the collapsed Paliwan bridge that needs urgent attention.
He said the two-lane Cairawan bridge in his town is also at risk of collapse.
“We’ve made a temporary pathway to allow people to cross,” Baladjay said. “But if that bridge collapses, then we will lose our last link to Aklan and Capiz,” the mayor said in a mix of Filipino and English.
He also pointed out that relief and recovery efforts are hampered by the critical level of available fuel.
“We no longer have a buffer supply, especially in the central part of Antique,” Baladjay said.
He stressed: “Don’t send us tanker trucks. Send us fuel in drums by sea.”
He urged the Department of Public Works and Highways to check all other bridges in the province “because history will tell us that all the strongest typhoons come in the last months of the year.”
Tobias Fornier Mayor Ernesto Tajanlangit said beyond infrastructure, Antique needs help for the recovery of agriculture, the main livelihood of residents.
“Seventy percent of our families rely on agriculture; farming. We were not expecting this and the effect is much worse compared to Odette, with both floods and landslides. Our fisherfolk and farmers are complaining, how do they get back on their feet?” he said.
There was no representative from the Department of Agriculture, which Marcos heads.
After apologizing for the absence of a DA representative, the DPWH chief mentioned cash assistance, seedlings, fertilizer, but said he would need to coordinate with the the DA.
Provincial agriculturist Nick Calawag said the province has no seedlings to give as it had earlier given out seedlings for 20,075 hectares of standing crop.
“We have 3,300 hectares totally damaged and we have no buffer seeds,” Calawag said.
He also urged the national government to hasten the release of the P5,000 cash assistance for small farmers allocated in the 2022 budget.
“We have 35,000 small farmers in the province and they are waiting for this,” the provincial agriculturist said.
The total loss to agriculture and fisheries in the province is at P192.6 million, said Calawag. The bulk is from the fisheries sector – including the washed out farms of more than 2,500 seaweed farmers – while P82 million is for agriculture. – Rappler.com