MANILA – Several Cabinet members of President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday assured that all concerned government agencies are working full time to provide assistance and support to all those affected by tropical depression Urduja (international name Kai-Tak).

The assurance was made during a briefing conducted at the Naval State University in Naval, Biliran, one of the most affected provinces of the tropical depression, prior to the arrival of President Duterte.

Among those present at the briefing were Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III, Social Welfare (DSWD) Acting Secretary Emmanuel Leyco, Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr., Energy (DOE) Undersecretary Wimpy Fuentebella, Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Eduardo Año, Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade, Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar, Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Teodoro Pascua, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino, and Office of Civil Defense (OCD) administrator and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Ricardo Jalad.

The heavy rains spawned by 'Urduja' triggered massive flashfloods and landslides in Biliran, Leyte, Samar, and Northern Samar.

According to latest NDRRMC data, a total of 62,309 affected families, or about 270,707 person were affected in Region 8.

At least 32 persons were killed – with 23 deaths reported in Biliran due to landslides - and 49 others were reported missing.

Damage to roads and bridges in the affected areas have already reached PHP326.7 million so far.

Leyco said that 44,000 families, consisting of 191,000 persons, in 608 evacuation centers in the affected provinces are presently receiving assistance from the DSWD.

He said that the DSWD has so far provided PHP37.6 million worth of family food packs and non-food items to those affected by the tropical depression.

As for the province of Biliran, 25,000 family food packs (15,000 from Cebu and 10,000 from Carigara, Leyte) are set to arrive via coast guard ships Monday afternoon.

The DSWD chief assured it has ample supply of relief goods in the affected region, having about 356,000 family food packs on stockpile in the affected areas and PHP188.8 million in standby fund.

“The DSWD is here to share with the rest of the government our support and assistance to make sure that the needs and requirements of our people are met,” Leyco said.

The DOH meanwhile assured that it has enough drugs and medicines as well as health services for all the 'Urduja'-affected areas.

Duque said that the health department had already deployed PHP4.5 million in drugs in medicines in the region.

“In so far as human resource for health is concerned, there are no major gaps and all major health services are available and very responsive to the needs of all the victims of the calamity,” he said.

A medical team from Cebu is also expected to arrive Tuesday to complement the existing capacities of the regional DOH in tandem with the services offered by local government units.

“We would like to complement their efforts to create the desired impact so that the people will certainly feel that government is very much present,” Duque said.

As for infrastructure, the DPWH assured that all its assets are being deployed to repair damaged infrastructure the soonest.

Villar said that among their priorities in Biliran are the bridges of Caraycaray and Catmon which sustained major damages.

He said the DPWH has already started transporting backfill materials to the two bridges to make them passable to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

“The estimated time of repair to render them passable to vehicular traffic is 30 days. In the meantime, we are finding ways to also make them passable for pedestrian traffic,” Villar said.

Villar assured that the DPWH is working full time not only in Biliran but also in all the provinces affected by 'Urduja'.

Lorenzana, who is also the chair of the NDRRMC, assured that the AFP is ready to bring in heavy equipment as well as personnel from its engineering brigade to help the DPWH rebuild public infrastructures destroyed by the tropical depression.

“Rest assured that the military is ready to assist with whatever they can,” the Defense official said.

In the energy sector, the DOE assured that efforts are in full swing to restore electric power in the affected areas.

Fuentebella said that power in Biliran, which is currently experiencing a total blackout, could be restored as early as December 21, the target date set by the Biliran Electric Cooperative (BILECO).

“The DOE is coordinating with the National Power Corporation and privately-owned power generation companies, National Electrification Administration (NEA) and other distribution utilities, the National Transmission Company and the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) to alert emergency, response and restoration teams for easy mobilization of assets to counter any adverse effect of the storm,” he said.

The Energy official said that restoration efforts are also underway for the Unified Leyte Geothermal Power Plant.

The plant was severely affected by 'Urduja', and its power generation was reduced to 215MW from its original power generation of 463MW.

Fuentebella said the good news is that as of Monday morning, the NGCP has already finished restoring all affected transmission lines and is asking the different electric cooperatives to coordinate with the agency for the restoration of power in their respective franchise areas.

The DOE likewise assured that the supply of petroleum products in the region is back to normal and the DOE called on the people to report unscrupulous traders following reports of overpricing of fuel products in some areas in Biliran and other provinces.

For its part, the DTI assured the steady supply of basic necessities to the stricken communities to avoid hoarding and profiteering from unscrupulous traders.

Pascua, who heads the DTI’s Consumer Protection Group, said the agency is already coordinating with the various marketing arms of big retail companies in Biliran like Prince Mall for them to stockpile on water and other basic goods.

Kaya pahayag namin sa ating mga kababayan dito sa Biliran, wala po kayong problema. Huwag na po kayong magmadali na para bagang may mauubusan at mag-hoard – bawal po iyon – pati na rin ang profiteering. Kaya huwag ho kayong mag-aalala, darating at darating po at sapat ang oras,” he said.

In Samar, Pascua said that even if there is a problem with the bridge connecting the two Samar provinces, the chain of supply is not broken since goods can be sourced from Matnog, Sorsogon in the north and Tacloban City in the south.

Affected farmers and fisherfolk were likewise assured of full government intervention.

Piñol said the DA is fully prepared with a set of immediate and long-term interventions to help Biliran farmers and fisherfolks quickly recover from the effects of the 'Urduja'.

He said that chief among them is the DA’s loan program called SURE, for Survival and Rehabilitation, which is worth PHP 25,000.

According to the Agriculture chief, PHP 5,000 of the amount is in the form of a grant that can be used to buy food, while the other PHP 20,000 is a no interest, no collateral loan for the purchase of crop seeds and fertilizer.

“This (SURE) can be accessed after the area has been declared under a state of calamity and the list of farmers and fisherfolks has been validated. As for other interventions, we are just waiting for the final list of areas affected so that we can prepare the required resources needed,” Piñol said.

In the meantime, the DOTr reported that the Biliran airport and seaport, as well as those in Tacloban City are now fully operational.

Tugade said Ormoc airport had sustained minor damages in its fences but was otherwise operational.

The AFP is also doing its best to assist in the relief and recovery operations.

Guerrero said that all major AFP service components in the region had been assisting in disaster response operations while military air assets were being used to ferry relief goods and disaster response personnel to the stricken areas.

Meanwhile, the OCD is focused on assessing the damage and the required resources for the rehabilitation and recovery of the region.

In concluding the briefing, Roque said that like those in Marawi City, the government of President Duterte is doing everything to help all those affected by Urduja as proven by the presence of his Cabinet on “ground zero.”

Sa lahat po ng mga taga-Biliran, Samar, Leyte at ibang mga lugar na nasalanta ng bagyo, nakikiramay po ang buong gobyerno ni Presidente Duterte. At asahan ninyo po, narito po sa inyong piling ang gobyerno ni Presidente Duterte,” he said.

At kagaya ng aking sinasabi sa Marawi, ang mga taga-Biliran, ang mga Waray, lahat po ng nasalanta ng Bagyong Urduja, sagot po kayo ni Presidente Duterte,” Roque said. (PNA)