TACLOBAN CITY – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Thursday instructed all government agencies to extend the necessary assistance to flood-stricken areas in Eastern Visayas and fast-track the repair of bridges and roads damaged by incessant rains brought about by the shear line and a low-pressure area.
The President gave the instruction as he canceled his visit to Northern Samar to personally check on the condition of the province and the people affected by the massive flooding.
He arrived at the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban City at 9 a.m. and was supposed to fly to Catarman in Northern Samar but was advised not to proceed because of the heavy rains, according to Presidential Management Staff Undersecretary Mark Gimenez.
The President instead held an online meeting with Northern Samar officials led by Governor Edwin Ongchuan, who gave an update on the extent of the damage caused by the weather disturbance.
Marcos was joined by some members of his Cabinet, among them Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos, Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian, Public Works and Highways Secretary Manuel Bonoan, and National Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro.
Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez, who also chairs the Regional Peace and Order Council 8 (Eastern Visayas), also joined the briefing.
During the briefing, Ongchuan, who was joined by Eastern Samar Vice Governor Maricor Sison-Goteesan and mayors from the flood-stricken towns of Northern Samar, reported that the massive flooding affected 16 of the province’s 24 towns. These are its capital Catarman, Lope de Vega, Mondragon, Victoria, Capul, Lavezarez, San Roque, Silvino Lobos, Pambujan, Laoang, Catubig, Las Navas, Palapag, Mapanas, Gamay, and Lapinig.
Ongchuan appealed to the President for the continued augmentation of the relief packs for the affected families. He also sought cash assistance for the victims.
The province declared a state of calamity on Nov. 21 after the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council recommended it to the provincial government.
Work in government and private offices resumed in the province Thursday but classes will remain suspended until Friday.
Meanwhile, the towns of Jipapad, Arteche, Maslog, Oras, Dolores, Can-avid, Sulat, and San Julian in Eastern Samar were also affected by the massive flooding. The province also declared a state of calamity on Nov. 22.
In Samar, affected are Calbayog City, Catbalogan City, Santa Margarita, Gandara, San Jorge, and Motiong.
In a related development, the DSWD has provided 21,300 food packs to Northern Samar.
The department also recorded 15 houses that were destroyed and 64 that were damaged as a result of flooding and landslides in Northern Samar.
A total of 114,260 families or 453,137 individuals were affected by flooding in 533 villages from the provinces of Samar Island, Biliran, and Southern Leyte.
The Department of Agriculture 8 estimated initial damage to crops and animals at PHP47,304,950.
Of the figure, PHP43,385,947 worth of damage was logged in Northern Samar; PHP1,888,978 in Samar; and PHP1,152,000 in Eastern Samar.
The majority of the damage was incurred by rice lands (PHP45 949, 925), followed by livestock (PHP629,400), high-value crops (PHP202, 000), root crops (PHP223, 125), and bananas (PHP220, 500).
The flooding affected 1,877 farmers, 1,941 hectares of farmlands, and 2,604 animals.
Northern Samar has the highest reported damage in rice areas, with about 1,707.5 hectares tilled by 1,727 farmer-beneficiaries.
Mortality on livestock and poultry was initially recorded in Allen and San Roque with a total of 2,604 heads.
Provision of potable water
Meanwhile, Marcos directed agencies and local governments in Samar to provide adequate potable water in communities affected by the flooding.
“I was just discussing… what we usually do is we provide water purification equipment. So, we will…as soon as possible, send in those, (but) for the moment, we’ll just have to provide actual water,” Marcos said during the situation briefing on Samar flooding held in Tacloban City.
Samar local officials said there is available water filtration system in Bicol and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has the capacity to deliver additional water purifying machines.
Marcos said the current infrastructure are no longer capable of handling floodwater because of the changing weather pattern, thus calling all sectors to adjust to address the situation.
“The photos that we saw – kitang-kita na (we can visibly see) the protections… Our sewers are not enough anymore because of the change in the weather that became severe,” he added.
The flooding in Samar affected 37 municipalities and 14,260 families, equivalent to 458,137 individuals, officials said.
The DSWD said there are 163 evacuation centers temporary sheltering 51,000 individuals. Outside the evacuation centers, the region has around 7,912 families affected by the disaster.
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr., meanwhile, reminded local chief executives (LCEs) to ensure they are not “missing in action” during calamities and emergency situations.
In a statement Friday, the DILG chief said the physical presence of local officials is very important during these challenging situations as they are expected to implement and oversee the conduct of appropriate disaster response measures in their respective localities.
“This is enshrined in the DILG's Operation Listo Manual, LCEs must be present before, during and after any disaster. Let’s follow this to ensure the safety of our constituents,” he added. (with a report from Joan Villanueva and Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)