The Duterte administration is ready to handle future disasters as shown in its quick response and effectiveness in addressing the aftermath of typhoons Karen and Lawin, a Palace official said on Monday (October 24).
At a press briefing in Malacañan, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol underscored government’s preparedness as reason for minimal loss of lives during the onslaught of two consecutive strong typhoons that battered northern Luzon.
“What is remarkable is the way government responded to this calamity. The reason why there was minimal damage to life and less people were injured was because government was prepared for this calamity,” he said noting that Lawin was as violent as super typhoon Yolanda, which left massive destruction and claimed thousands of lives in Eastern Visayas region in 2013.
Piñol said the 911 emergency hotline, a brainchild of President Duterte, as well as the prompt advisories of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, have significantly helped in preventing casualties and protecting and securing people who were in the path of typhoon.
Damage to agriculture is pegged at P10.2 billion for the two typhoons, according to Piñol.
He said quick response fund amounting to P350 million were readily available for the affected provinces including the Cordillera region, Cagayan Valley, Isabela and Ilocos, among others.
Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, who joined Piñol at the briefing, said P5,000 cash were provided for the victims as initial amount for emergency shelter assistance apart from relief goods and livelihood assistance including P37 million worth of seeds like corn, palay and vegetables for farmers; and bancas and nets for fisherfolk.
“Emergency shelter assistance should be emergency, not three years, not two years after. We are doing our best to make sure that the Yolanda experience in terms of delayed provision of emergency shelter assistance should not be repeated,” she said.
While the government was able to provide immediate assistance to typhoon victims, Piñol revealed several long-term interventions the administration has devised to mitigate the effects of future typhoons and other calamities.
He cited the need to conduct dredging and desiltation of the Chico River and Cagayan River saying that too much siltation in both rivers have caused water to overflow resulting in heavy flooding in lowland communities.
He likewise mentioned President Duterte’s recommendation to review the planting calendar in light of changes in weather patterns brought about by climate change.
“Planting calendar should be designed in such a way that we will avoid harvesting our crops during the rainy season or the onset of the typhoon season,” he said noting that October now has become a typhoon season and rainy season in Cagayan Valley.
Piñol also bared proposal that the crop insurance program of government should be changed from actual damage to index losses, wherein there is a corresponding computation of damage to crops which will be covered in a form of insurance coverage.
Meanwhile, Piñol clarified the earlier pronouncement of President Duterte about his plan to revive the Masagana 99 and Biyayang Dagat saying that the latter only ponders on adopting the concept of the rice-sufficiency programs implemented during the Marcos regime.
“Hindi niya sinasabing i-revive ‘yung Masagana 99 because even if we like to, we cannot do it anymore because iba ‘yung variety ng palay na ginamit noong araw, iba ‘yung reality noong araw,” he said.
He said the government is now looking for ways to attain rice self-sufficiency by providing all the support needed by farmers such as expanded irrigation and water needs and providing good seeds and fertilizers.
He added that China, which the President visited recently, has expressed its willingness to support the government in its effort to stabilize and produce more rice and food supply for Filipinos.
Piñol also bared plans of the government to transform the National Food Authority (NFA) as a mere regulatory body for its failure in stabilizing rice prices in the past in its procurement process.
Corporations, he said, must be encouraged to buy rice directly from farmers which can help lower rice prices usually dictated by traders.
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the President will be leaving for Japan on Tuesday to discuss security, economic, and defense issues with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
He said the three-day trip is seen to continue to bolster efforts of the Duterte administration to strengthen its partnerships with its Asian neighbors.
He said the President also plans to observe the Japanese ship-building process as maritime coopertion process continue to prosper.
Abella said the President’s main agenda with the Japanese leader will focus on economic issues.
There is a great appreciation from the Japanese people and an anticipation of the President in his visit, he said. PNP