All hands on deck

As PRRD, concerned agencies lead rescue and recovery efforts in Typhoon hit communities while Bong Go assures victims of continuous support and aid

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go joined President Rodrigo Duterte in an aerial inspection of the hardest-hit areas in Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Islands and Southern Leyte on Saturday, December 18, to survey the extent of the destruction caused by Typhoon Odette.

Go and the President flew from Metro Manila and passed over Siargao Island before landing in Surigao City. After surveying the damage at the airport, they conducted an aerial inspection of the Dinagat Islands before proceeding to Maasin City in Southern Leyte where they extended aid and met with leaders to discuss rescue and recovery efforts. Upon returning to Surigao City, they distributed relief and met with key national and local officials.

In a message of solidarity with the victims, Go assured that the Duterte Administration would provide all forms of assistance needed by communities to bolster their recovery. He then thanked all government officials, first responders and volunteers who are doing their best to respond to the disaster and save lives.

“Asahan po ninyo na gagawin namin ang lahat ng aming makakaya upang makabangon kayo muli mula sa pagsubok na ito. Hindi kayo pababayaan ng gobyerno ninyo na palaging nagmamalasakit sa inyo. Magbayanihan po tayo,” appealed Go.

“Sisikapin natin na maibalik sa lalong madaling panahon ang supply ng kuryente, komunikasyon at tubig sa mga apektadong lugar. Patuloy ang rescue and recovery operations at ang pagbibigay ng pagkain, tubig at iba pang relief sa mga nasalanta. Buong gobyerno nandito para tumulong at gampanan ang kanilang tungkulin,” he reassured.

During the situational briefing in Maasin City, President Duterte pledged to release P1 billion in calamity funds to the affected local government units and another P1 billion to the concerned government agencies, saying the government is aiming for the “earliest return to normalcy”. He directed officials to make sure funds are available for the procurement of food, medicines and other essential needs.

To assist in the immediate recovery and rehabilitation of the affected areas, the President specifically ordered the Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, Department of Social Welfare and Development, National Housing Authority, and Office of Civil Defense to expedite the delivery of assistance to areas in greatest need.

The DPWH was instructed to clear all roads and provide the needed equipment to the LGUs while the DSWD was called to ensure the continuous distribution of relief goods. The Department of Health was also ordered to send additional medical supplies and augment the health personnel in the Dinagat Islands.

On the other hand, the DOE was tasked to expedite the return of electricity and the Department of Information and Communications Technology to augment mobile cell sites and provided satellite phones or other modes of communication in the affected areas.

Finally, the NHA was called upon to assist displaced families, in coordination with DHSUD. The DA was also tasked to provide boats and seedlings to affected farmers and fisherfolk.

In addition, the President specifically directed concerned departments to assess the extent of damage and address the concerns of the LGUs. Social Welfare Secretary Joselito Bautista, meanwhile, was assigned to act as the crisis manager for the Surigao del Norte and Dinagat Islands. Office of Civil Defense administrator Ricardo Jalad will assist him.

Moreover, the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard were requested to send ships to support the delivery of much-needed supplies, equipment and food to Surigao del Norte and Dinagat Islands. The Maritime Industry Authority was tasked to assess the condition of the ships and assist in the carriage of relief goods.

Meanwhile, the BRP Ang Pangulo will also be deployed to serve as a floating hospital to the said provinces since existing hospitals have been damaged.

Senator Go, as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, warned that the typhoon could exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases as evacuees are forced to stay in crowded temporary shelters. He urged authorities to ensure the strict implementation of the health and safety protocols and provide the necessary medicines, health and hygiene supplies at every evacuation center.

“Bagamat ginagawa natin ang lahat upang mailigtas ang mga tao mula sa panganib na dulot ng bagyo, iwasan rin natin ang pagkalat ng COVID-19 at iba pang sakit sa mga sinisilungan nilang evacuation centers,” said Go.

Consistent with his earlier pronouncements, Go reaffirmed his commitment to push for the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience to ensure a quicker, more proactive and holistic government response to calamities and other natural disasters.

He renewed his call for the passage of Senate Bill No. 205, a measure he filed in 2019, which provides for the establishment of a highly specialized agency that will be tasked with ensuring communities are disaster-resilient, safe and adaptive. The department will focus on three key result areas, namely: (1) disaster risk reduction, (2) disaster preparedness and response, and (3) recovery and building forward better.

“Ilang kalamidad at sakuna pa ba ang kailangan para maintindihan na kailangan na nating aksyunan ito upang mas palakasin pa ang mekanismong mayroon tayo ngayon,” stressed Go.

The senator likewise called on his fellow lawmakers to act on SBN 1228 which seeks to establish a mandatory evacuation center in every province, city and municipality. Filed in 2019 by Go, the bill provides a set of minimum requirements for each evacuation center, such as its accessibility, amenities and operation and management.

“Magbayanihan at magmalasakit tayo sa ating kapwa. Kung anuman ang maitutulong natin ay gawin na natin sa abot ng ating makakaya. Sino nga ba naman ang magtutulungan kundi tayo lang po kapwa natin Pilipino,” he ended.

Go and President Duterte are expected to conduct further inspections in Bohol and Cebu on December 19.

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