‘Caloy’ storm signals lifted
- Sheila Crisostomo () - May 16, 2006 - 12:00am
The weather bureau lifted public storm warning signals in all areas affected by Typhoon "Caloy" as the death toll rose to 41 yesterday.

After days of disaster brought by Caloy, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration (Pagasa) said the weather disturbance is on its way out of the country although it still managed to maintain its strength.

The typhoon was spotted 580 kilometers west-southwest of Metro Manila or 490 kilometers west-southwest of Iba, Zambales.

Pagasa said the typhoon was gathering strength over the South China Sea, and was located about 580 kilometers southwest of Manila, moving northwest at a speed of 13 kilometers per hour (kph).

The storm was packing maximum sustained center winds of 150 kph with gusts of up to 185 kph.

This morning, the typhoon is expected to be 570 kilometers west-northwest of Iba, Zambales and at 610 kilometers west-northwest of Laoag City.

"Light to moderate rains with moderate to occasionally strong southwesterly winds will prevail over the western section of Visayas and Southern Luzon," PAG-ASA said.

Meteorologists in Hong Kong were bracing for the massive storm to hit the southern Chinese territory, predicting heavy rains over the next few days.

Rescue officials in the central island of Negros reported five deaths in the region from drownings and electrocution from severed power lines, in addition to 36 deaths reported elsewhere by the Civil Defense Office.

Of the fatalities, 28 died by drowning after their motorized banca sank in the rough waters off Masbate Friday.

Thirteen other people are missing across the country. Seven of the missing persons came from Western Visayas, two from the Bicol Region, and one in Eastern Visayas.

Caloy also left 15 pople injured.

Caloy (international name Chanchu), which hit the Philippines as a relatively weaker tropical storm last weekend, cut a large swathe of destruction, with many areas still without electricity.

The provinces of Oriental Mindoro and Romblon had electricity restored since 11 p.m. Friday.

Power has been restored to Batangas, which was badly battered by Caloy, as well as Laguna, which experienced repeated power interruptions last Saturday.

Power outages still affect the whole province of Camarines Sur, except Naga City; Sorsogon and Masbate provinces except Burias Island.

Communication lines in the Bicol Region are still down due to problems experienced by Bayantel and Digitel

More than 2,000 people remained at evacuation centers after three nights of rain and strong winds that grounded inter-island shipping, and destroyed farms, roads and bridges.

Heavy rains brought about by Caloy triggered a series of landslides in the town of Sogod in Southern Leyte last Friday.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported that Caloy forced 53,307 people to abandon their homes for safer areas in Southern Tagalog, Western and Eastern Visayas and the National Capital Region.

The storm also displaced 10,962 families or 53,307 individuals and damaged 6,521 houses. About 1,572

families or 7,893 people have been transferred to 16 evacuation centers.

The NDCC said with the return of good weather, teams will conduct damage and needs assessment to determine the extent of devastation left by Caloy.

So far, the NDCC said P415.1 million worth of relief assistance have been given to typhoon victims in Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Western and Eastern Visayas and the National Capital Region.,
‘Nation will recover’
President Arroyo said yesterday the nation can recover from the destruction caused by Caloy as she assured the public that the government will not relent in its relief and rehabilitation efforts "until the last beleaguered family is reached and served."

"We have been through this challenge several times in the past, and the Filipino has shown remarkable resiliency to bounce back," she said in rallying the people to bounce back from the calamity.

"The nation must pull together to come to the aid of the victims and get their communities back on track," Mrs. Arroyo said.

The President said the government’s entire disaster response system at the national and local levels have been working to attend to the victims and affected communities to "get them back on their feet."

She also directed the Department of Agriculture to work to make damaged farmlands productive again.

"We shall keep prices of essential goods stable and steady and go after those who try to profit out of the misfortunes of others," Mrs. Arroyo said.
Crops, livestock lost
Caloy destroyed P71.57 million worth of agricultural crops and livestock.

Initial reports from field offices of the Department of Agriculture (DA) show that the typhoon badly hit the eastern section of the country, particularly corn plantations and high-value crop farms.

Based on the DA report, the hardest hit was the province of Occidental Mindoro with an estimated P24.52 million in lost agricultural production.

On the other hand, the lost crops and livestock in Region 4, including Batangas, Cavite and Laguna, reached P51.08 million.

In Region 5, the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur and Sorsogon lost P12.28 million worth of farm produce while Region 8 sustained about P4.32 million in damage.

Bataan, which is in Region Central Luzon, sustained minimal losses amounting to P400,000.

Considerable damage was also reported for high-value commercial crops such as banana, mango, coffee, citrus, rambutan and lanzones with total losses of P30.37 million.

Caloy also destroyed standing corn crops estimated to be worth P30.1 million.

Agriculture Secretary Domingo Panganiban said the damages will not substantially hurt the government’s national rice and corn production for the year.  

He said the corn production loss in Mindoro can be offset by the projected good production in Mindanao, considered the "corn seat" of the country.

The DA is undertaking the rehabilitation of areas devastated by the storm and providing assistance to affected farmers, such as seeds for a quick turn-around planting.

Compared to corn, damaged palay crop was estimated at P7.61 million only.
Set up emergency offices
With the onset of the typhoon season, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno asked mayors, governors and other local officials to set up public safety and emergency offices to work during storms and other natural disasters.

He also urged local government units (LGUs) to reactivate their local disaster coordinating councils to enable them to effectively prepare for, and mitigate the impact of, natural calamities.

"While we must focus our priorities on the most landslide-prone areas in the country, all LGUs and other sectors concerned should work together to ensure that all our communities are fully prepared for any disaster that may occur in the future," Puno said. "Our preparedness will help save lives."

He ordered regional directors of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to assist LGUs in formulating their respective disaster preparedness plans, especially in areas recently identified by PAG-ASA, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvolcs) and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) as the "most landslide prone" — Southern Leyte, Benguet, Mt. Province, Nueva Vizcaya, Kalinga Apayao, Abra, Marinduque, Cebu, Catanduanes and Ifugao.

Puno pointed out that disaster management and preparedness has been incorporated in the Local Government Performance Assessment System established by the DILG as a mode of self-evaluation for local executives to help them improve governance and the delivery of basic services to their respective constituents.

Disaster management and preparedness was included in LGU performance assessment system indicators that guides LGUs to help them improve local governance.

Puno reminded LGUs of Memorandum Circular No. 2006-20 issued by the DILG last February encouraging local officials to reactivate their local disaster coordinating councils at the provincial, city, municipal and barangay levels, and help heighten the disaster preparedness level of their respective areas.

In the memorandum, Puno advised LGUs to conduct public awareness campaigns on the possible hazards in their localities and, if possible, disseminate hazard maps, how-to manuals, and other materials to inform their constituencies on ways to prepare for natural calamities and disasters.

He also encouraged LGUs to team up with non-government organizations and emergency volunteer groups, as well as disaster preparedness action teams deployed by the government, to conduct seminars and training workshops on disaster preparedness.

Besides coming up with their comprehensive disaster preparedness plans, Puno said LGUs should also set up early warning systems, identify evacuation and resettlement centers, establish an identification system for their residents, and develop standard operating procedures on damage and needs assessment.

He also prodded local executives to establish databanks of high-risk populated areas in their communities and list available medical personnel, social workers, and service providers who could be tapped immediately in case disaster strikes.

Local officials should also have a database of their search and rescue equipment, transport and communications facilities and alternate road networks, Puno added.

To effectively carry out these initiatives, Puno urged the respective local councils of LGUs to enact resolutions allocating funds and other resources for disaster preparedness.

He also called on local councils to adopt disaster preparedness plans that would empower their respective local police forces to evacuate residents staying in critical areas, and to immediately declare a state of calamity in affected areas if and when necessary. With Jaime Laude, Rocel Felix, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Paolo Romero, Filipina Dacanay and AFP

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