President Duterte is joined by Sen. Bong Go, Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas and local officials in handing over livelihood assistance and food packs to families affected by Taal Volcano’s activity during his visit to evacuees at the Batangas City Sports Coliseum the other day.
Evacuees get aid from Duterte
Louise Maureen Simeon, Rainier Allan Ronda, Ramon Efren Lazaro, Janvic Mateo, Mayen Jaymalin, Jose Rodel Clapano, Sheila Crisostomo, Emmanuel Tupas, Ralph Edwin Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - January 16, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte visited Batangas City on Tuesday and distributed food packs and cash to over 1,000 families from areas affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano.

Duterte, accompanied by Sen. Christopher Go, checked the situation of more than 1,214 families in the evacuation center.

The President led the discussion on how to address and mitigate issues that the country is currently facing, especially with scientists warning that the worst is yet to come from Taal Volcano.

Go, whom Duterte mentioned in his short message as someone who “hails from Batangas,” also participated in the relief operations and in the briefing.

Duterte joined the ceremonial distribution to all the families of food packs and cash assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), hygiene kits from the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

The Department of Agriculture (DA) also turned over an assistance package to affected farmers and fisherfolk.

Duterte distributed an initial P160 million worth of agriculture, fishery and livelihood assistance to farmers, fishers and other rural folk.

He said the immediate normalization of the situation should be the government’s priority in times of typhoons and other natural disasters.

The DA has assured the affected residents of its full assistance to help farmers recover.

“We want fast and concrete actions during this trying time. I am personally seeing to it that all hands in DA are on board to deliver the services to our farmers and fishers, and the general public that depends on the sustainability of our food supply,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.

The DA is crafting a comprehensive rehabilitation plan that includes appropriate measures and interventions for immediate implementation once volcanic activities cease and thus safe to resume farming and fishing activities.

Dar has directed the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to conduct water quality test for sulfur and other toxic materials in the area.

During the briefing, the President ordered a simultaneous construction of “strong” evacuation centers and hopes that the construction will be finished before his term ends.

“I hope that you can finish it before my term ends… I want projects that are doable and can be finished during my term,” he said.

Go expressed support for Duterte’s statement during the situational briefing on building permanent evacuation centers, especially in areas vulnerable to natural disasters.

Seeking to address the vulnerability of the country to the impacts of climate change and natural as well as human-made disasters, Go filed recently a bill providing for mandatory evacuation centers in all cities, provinces and municipalities nationwide.

The PCSO also sent a medical aid caravan to Batangas to bring relief to hundreds, if not thousands, of families affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano.

Led by general manager Royina Garma, the PCSO caravan distributed some 5,000 N95 face masks, 3,300 grocery packs as well as medicines to affected residents in the municipalities of Bauan and Santo Tomas last Tuesday.

 Emergency employment 

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has set aside funds for emergency employment and other assistance for workers affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano.

Labor Undersecretary Renato Ebarle said DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III ordered the release of an initial fund of P72.3 million for the implementation of emergency employment program. 

Ebarle said beneficiaries of the program would be mobilized for the rehabilitation of nine affected municipalities of Batangas.

With the program, DOLE hopes to provide short-term income support and livelihood assistance to augment the income of displaced workers.

DOLE pays minimum wage to beneficiaries of emergency employment program.

But DOLE said the government cannot yet immediately implement the emergency employment program since Taal Volcano remains restive.

Officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said that the Batangas First District Engineering Office reported that all roads remain passable but major cracks appeared along Palico-Balayan-Batangas road in Barangay Sinisian East and Barangay Palanas in Lemery, Batangas.

Roads have been assessed but no further work will be implemented for the time being with the continuous earthquakes and ashfall.

The DPWH has installed warning signs for motorists and deployed workers to further assess the extent of damage on the roads while manpower and equipment continue to conduct clearing of ashfall in the area.

The Lemery-Taal Diversion Road sustained major cracks due to the continued volcanic tremors.

“As soon as full assessment is done, and no ground movement can hamper construction activities, DPWH will immediately repair cracks and settlement along affected national roads,” officials said.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) yesterday ordered the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) to mobilize all its

resources and assist the DPWH in road-clearing operations in areas affected by Taal Volcano.

“In these trying times, we must unite as a nation and respond with urgency. I therefore direct the BFP to deploy all its firetrucks and assets and perform all needed actions to assist in the road clearing and cleaning of ashfall and volcanic debris in all affected provinces,” said Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.

Año said all roads have to be cleared of ash and

volcanic debris to ensure the smooth flow of relief aid and the evacuation of residents in Batangas, which bore the brunt of the volcano’s fury.

He said the BFP so far had deployed 531 firemen, 147 firetrucks, 39 emergency service personnel and nine ambulances in the affected areas.

The DILG issued a memorandum to local

government units to provide humanitarian assistance to affected areas and for local

chief executives to supervise relief efforts.

The PHAPCares Foundation of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines has sent more than 16,500 face masks and essentital medicines for the evacuees and responders to Sto. Tomas and Padre Garcia in Batangas.

PHAPCares Foundation president Jannette Jakosalem said they embarked on the humanitarian mission since the health of residents could be affected by the volcanic eruption.

The foundation had turned over its donations to Metropolitan Manila Development Authority deputy chairman Frisco San Juan Jr.

San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora said the city government had pledged P2 million for relief efforts in Batangas.

Zamora said he urged the city council to fast-track the transfer of funds from the city’s emergency fund.

Bulacan Gov. Daniel Fernando said the provincial government had donated P1 million in cash and 5,000 food packs for the relief operation in Batangas.

Mayor Walfredo Dimaguila of Biñan, Laguna said they would donate some of the bricks and hollow blocks they will make out of the ashfall from Taal Volcano to help rebuild structures damaged by the volcano in Batangas.

“Once Agoncillo, Lemery, Calaca and the others recover, we will bring these to them. They can use it to rebuild,” Dimaguila said.

Called “Taal bricks,” the city government of Biñan this week started producing bricks that use the ashfall from Taal Volcano as a primary component.

Dimaguila said the project was an offshoot of their existing solid waste management program that uses shredded plastic waste in the production of eco-bricks.       

CHRISTOPHER BONG GO RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE
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