Preparations for 'Ruby' in Mindanao 'did not go to waste'

John Unson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Better ready than sorry.

Local executives and military officials on Monday said their emergency preparations for typhoon Ruby, which did not affect Central Mindanao contrary to earlier forecasts, did not go to waste.

“Our preparations provided the public a good picture of how local government units (LGUs) in the region and the military can readily put up contingency plans whenever the need arises,” said Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID).

The 6th ID, which has jurisdiction over Central Mindanao’s adjoining North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces, and the cities of Tacurong and Cotabato, mobilized last Friday 200 Army rescuers and medics that waited for action until Monday dawn.

“The preparations for the possible adverse impact of typhoon Ruby in our area became a joint emergency preparedness exercise for us and the LGUs in the region," Pangilinan said.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza and her counterpart in Maguindanao, Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, also prepared for typhoon Ruby.

Ambulances and medical teams under the two provincial governments were ready for action as early as Friday dawn, according to the 6th ID’s Division Public Affairs Office.

Mendoza on Monday told The Star via mobile phone she is thankful to all 17 municipal mayors in North Cotabato and the local officials in the provincial capital, Kidapawan City, for their cohesive disaster response coordination.

“Most importantly, we are thankful to the `most merciful lord almighty' for sparing the whole of Central Mindanao from typhoon Ruby,” Mendoza said.

Pangilinan said the office of Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) also extended support to the 6th ID’s 200-member emergency contingent for typhoon Ruby.

Pangilinan said the Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Relief Team (HEART) of ARMM even lend the 6th ID one of its rescue boats and provided a team of volunteer two-way radio enthusiasts to beef up the division’s emergency preparedness.

The HEART, which Hataman created through a special order more than a year ago, had provided relief and rehabilitation services to about a million people displaced by internecine conflicts in the autonomous region, the deadly siege by renegade Moro National Liberation Front members in Zamboanga City in September 2013, and, subsequently the typhoon Yolanda onslaught in parts of Visayas in the same year.

The HEART operated for two weeks in several towns in the Visayas which typhoon Yolanda devasted.

"Our preparations for typhoon Ruby were efficiently managed. Thanks to all our cooperators. Better ready than sorry," Pangilinan said.

Typhoon Ruby knocked out power in Sorsogon, Catanduanes, Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Masbate, Mindoro and Eastern Samar, toppling down trees and power lines and sending more than 650,000 people fleeing into shelters before it weakened on Sunday.

Packing maximum sustained winds of 175 kilometers per hour and gusts of 210 kph, Ruby made landfall in Dolores, a coastal town in Eastern Samar Saturday night.

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