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House summons dam, LGU officials

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
House summons dam, LGU officials
Quezon Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga, chairman of the committee on agriculture and food, confirmed that they have invited NIA officials to the hearings that will start on Nov. 24 to determine the cause of the severe flooding attributed partly to the release of water in Magat Dam.
Michael Varcas / File

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives has summoned officials of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and local executives in Cagayan and Isabela for its inquiry on the cataclysmic flooding that submerged the two provinces and parts of Metro Manila and Rizal during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses last week.

Quezon Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga, chairman of the committee on agriculture and food, confirmed that they have invited NIA officials to the hearings that will start on Nov. 24 to determine the cause of the severe flooding attributed partly to the release of water in Magat Dam.

“We want to get the facts straight. The problem from the local perspective of our colleagues here was that there was no advisory given about the release of the water from the dam. But NIA claimed otherwise. So we want to get the real picture of what happened, to see who is responsible, and if there’s any negligence that we find, then we will act on it,” the lawmaker told reporters at the virtual weekly forum of the House.

“We want to see what really happened. We want to see the reports on releases on water,” Enverga explained.

He said the panel would determine if NIA officials did their part and were responsible enough to follow protocols on the release of water from the dam.

Enverga said local government officials were also invited to the hearing as the panel seeks to look into their actions and if they received all necessary information before and during the onslaught of the typhoon.

He said officials of other relevant agencies were also invited, saying there could be several other issues to be discussed during the hearings.

He said the panel could also tackle the issue on media coverage after some local officials cited the lack of media reports about the impending catastrophe following the shutdown of broadcast giant ABS-CBN due to the decision of the House not to renew its legislative franchise last July.

The panel set the investigation in aid of legislation pursuant to House Resolution 1348 filed by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, along with Majority Leader Martin Romualdez and Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano.

Ulysses damage

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has pegged the damage to infrastructure at P9.392.77 billion after Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco) ravaged Luzon.

In an executive summary, the DPWH said the damage to roads has reached P4.857.37 billion; bridges at P431.38 million; flood control, P2.992.45 billion; public buildings, P300.47 million; school buildings, P511.10 million and other infrastructure, P300 million.

The DPWH said that the highest damage to infrastructure was recorded in the Bicol region at P3.3 billion, followed by Cagayan Valley at P2.538.80 billion and Calabarzon at P1.900 billion; Central Luzon, P742.62 million; Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), P529.55 million.

Damage to infrastructure in Ilocos region reached P326.30 million; Mimaropa at P44.50 million and the National Capital Region (NCR) at P10.50 million.

As of yesterday afternoon, DPWH said seven road sections remain closed to traffic including one road each in the Codilleras and Calabarzon, two in Cagayan Valley and three in Central Luzon due to soil erosion and flooding, among others.

Some 112 roads were already cleared, according to DPWH.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado directed all local government units (LGUs) to use the P1.5-billion additional calamity funds given by the national government following the onslaught of typhoons.

Avisado issued Local Budget Circular No. 130, providing the guidelines for utilization of the P1.5-billion financial assistance given to LGUs affected by Typhoon Quinta (Molave) and Super Typhoon Rolly (Goni).

The financial assistance was released by the DBM last Tuesday and charged against the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Fund.

The DBM said the specific programs, projects and activities (PPAs) that may be implemented by the beneficiary LGUs should be consistent with those prescribed under NDRRM Council-DBM-Department of the Interior and Local Government Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2013-1.

These PPAs and expenses must be incorporated in the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan, and integrated in the Annual Investment Program of the beneficiary LGUs.

LGUs also have until Dec. 31, 2021 to utilize all the funds, according to the circular.

“Funds which remain unutilized after Dec. 31, 2021 shall be reverted to the National Treasury by the recipient LGUs,” the DBM said.

To ensure transparency and accountability for the usage of the funds, the DBM directed LGUs to prepare a monthly statement on fund utilization and the status of implementation of the PPAs involved, and comply with other posting requirements.

As of Nov. 17, the NDRRM Fund had a total available balance of P16.8 billion after it received a P10-billion augmentation from the DBM.

Avisado said P11.774 billion of this amount accounted for the regular NDRRM Fund, which included replenishments for quick response funds.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said their regional field offices (FOs) in areas hardest hit by Ulysses continue to assist LGUs in their disaster relief operations for their affected constituents.

In Cagayan province, the DSWD FO 2 has provided P22 million worth of food and non-food items to LGUs in the region.

The DSWD FO 2 started on Nov. 18 the distribution of burial assistance amounting to P10,000 each to bereaved families in Alcala, Gonzaga, Gattaran and Tuguegarao City in Cagayan, as well as from Maddela and Nagtipunan, Quirino.

The FO 2 also sent out 1,000 family food packs (FFPs) to Alcala and Enrile, Cagayan.

In Calabarzon, the DSWD FO has already extended P13.6 million worth of augmentation assistance to the provinces of Rizal, Laguna and Quezon.

Meanwhile, in Bicol region, DSWD FO 5 has provided 27,266 FFPs to affected areas in Albay, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte amounting to P13.8 million.

In the National Capital Region, DSWD FO NCR has extended 13,430 FFPs and 1,200 sleeping kits to affected LGUs amounting to more than P7.7 million.

The DSWD would also continue providing psychosocial services for adults and play therapy for children in evacuation centers in a bid to lessen the stress and trauma experienced by typhoon-affected individuals and families in all the regions severely affected by typhoons Rolly and Ulysses.

The DSWD said that this was in line with their mandate as lead agency of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Protection Cluster and the Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The DSWD, in coordination with LGUs, also ensures the availability of child and women-friendly spaces in evacuation centers in accordance with Republic Act No. 10821 or the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act. — Robertzon Ramirez, Mary Grace Padin, Rainier Allan Ronda

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