Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo expressed confidence that the proper protocols would be followed in the request and granting of international humanitarian assistance. “There are established protocols for declared calamities,” he said at a press briefing yesterday afternoon.
STAR/ File
Duterte declares state of calamity in Calabarzon
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - February 28, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has declared a state of calamity in the Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon (Calabarzon) region to help in the rehabilitation of areas affected by the recent eruption of Taal Volcano.

With the President’s declaration, the Philippine government opens itself to assistance from the international community, which may want to extend aid to the affected areas for humanitarian purposes.

Proclamation No. 906 would also empower the government to take steps to prevent unnecessary overpricing of goods in the region.

“The declaration of a state of calamity will hasten the rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts of the government and the private sector, including any international humanitarian assistance, and will
 effectively control the prices,” Duterte said in his order.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo expressed confidence that the proper protocols would be followed in the request and granting of international humanitarian assistance. “There are established protocols for declared calamities,” he said at a press briefing yesterday afternoon.

“There is nothing wrong to ask for assistance so that we can help more those who are in need,” Panelo added, when asked why the President had signified seeking assistance from abroad.

Duterte, however, has been turning down assistance even from allies, especially those critical of his human rights record. Panelo said seeking international humanitarian help for disasters is a different matter.

Asked why it took quite long before the President declared the state of calamity, Panelo  said: “There can never be too late in any declaration with respect to calamities.”

Pressed further on the apparent inaction of the House of Representatives to pass the P30-billion supplemental budget sought by Duterte for the Taal rehabilitation, Panelo expressed confidence that Congress would eventually approve it.

“The presumption is that they are doing their jobs, until such time that they don’t, we will appeal to them,” Panelo said.

In January, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano led a special session in Batangas barely two weeks after the eruption. During the out-of-town session, all representatives from Batangas’ six districts spearheaded the filing of the bill allocating P30 billion as supplemental budget for the rehabilitation of the areas affected by the eruption.

In one of his visits in Batangas, Duterte also barred the entry and return of local residents within the seven-kilometer radius from the main crater.

The P30-billion will augment the P16-billion allotment under the 2020 budget for disasters this year, which included P3.5 billion for the rehabilitation of Marawi City; and P5 billion for the communities affected by earthquakes last year in Mindanao.

The first regular session of Congress will adjourn from March 14 to May 3. It will resume again for a month from May 4 to June 5 before going on sine die adjournment from June 6 to July 26.  The President will be delivering his State of the Nation Address after the sine die adjournment.

Under Proclamation No. 906, the President noted how the volcanic activity of Taal has caused widespread damage to properties and posed great danger to the health and safety of the local residents.

“This declaration will, among others, afford the National Government, as well as local government units, ample latitude to utilize appropriate funds for the rescue, recovery, relief and rehabilitation of, and to continue to provide basic services, for affected population, in accordance with law,” the proclamation read.

Duterte also directed all departments and other concerned government agencies to implement and execute rescue, recovery, relief and rehabilitation work in accordance with pertinent operational plans and directives.

About 129,171 families or 483,389 persons in the provinces of Batangas, Quezon, Laguna, Rizal and Cavite were affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano last Jan. 12. 

This prompted the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) to raise the alert status to Alert Level 4, which resulted in forced evacuation of thousands of local residents.

Meanwhile, Phivolcs said Taal Volcano emitted moderate steam between Wednesday night and early yesterday morning.

“In the past 24 hours, activity in the main crater was characterized by moderate emission of steam-laden plumes that rose 300 meters high before drifting southwest between 9 p.m. yesterday and 3 a.m. today,” the Phivolcs bulletin read.

“Intermittent weak steaming activity occurred throughout the rest of the observation period. The Taal Volcano Network recorded 34 volcanic earthquakes that are associated with rock fracturing processes beneath and around the edifice,” it said. Alert Level 2 is maintained over Taal Volcano.  

Phivolcs also recommended that entry into Taal’s Permanent Danger Zone be strictly prohibited.

“People are also advised to observe precautions due to ground displacement across fissures, frequent ashfall, and minor earthquakes. Communities beside active river channels particularly where ash from the main eruption phase has been thickly deposited should increase vigilance when there is heavy and prolonged rainfall since the ash can be washed away and form lahars along the channels,” it said.- Rhodina Villanueva

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