ERAP INSPECTS BICOL DAMAGE, GRANTS P50-M FOR CATANDUANES REHAB
Virac, Catanduanes, Oct. 25, 1998 - President Joseph Estrada on Saturday set aside P50 million in calamity funds for Catanduanes province even as he declared the Bicol region under a state of calamity in the wake of supertyphoon "Loleng."
Of the amount, P5 million will go to Virac, one of the areas hardest hit by the typhoon.
Mr. Estrada, who personally saw the damage wrought by "Loleng," also said the national government will shoulder the cost of 73,000 sacks of rice to be distributed by the National Food Authority (NFA) to poor families devastated by the typhoon.
"Pansamantala ako'y nagbibigay ng P50 million sa provincial government para magamit, at sa P50 million ay magbibigay muna ako ng P5 million. ( I commit P50 million to the provincial government, of which I am releasing P5 immediately)," he said.
On top of the P50 million, Mr. Estrada gave families of the 106 fatalities in the entire Bicol region P10,000 each.
The President and his party arrived at 2:30 p.m., and immediately conducted an aerial inspection of the area before proceeding to the provincial capitol.
On board the presidential helicopter, the President saw for himself the extent of the damage done by "Loleng" --uprooted trees, landslides, roofless homes, massive floods and destroyed roads and bridges.
The President said he was saddened by the heavy damage to the province.
"Ang pumasok sa aking isip agad ay paano ko matutulungan agad ang lahat na napinsala, inisip ko na napakalaking halaga gayunpaman ang nakita nyo na narito kami (My first thought was how to help, and I am concerned that this will take a large amount of money. But you can see that we are here to help you)," he said.
Chief Superintendent Marcelo Navarro, police regional director for Bicol and chairman of the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council (RDCC), said some P1.7 billion was needed to rehabilitate the entire Bicol region.
Navarro reported to the President that the typhoon destroyed P540 million worth of properties, P500 million worth of infrastructure, and P600 million worth of agricultural crops.
106 evacuation centers have been set up to accommodate families displaced by "Loleng." Some 11,000 houses had been destroyed, while 14,000 sustained partial damage.
After the briefing by Navarro at the capitol, the President led the distribution of relief goods to typhoon-hit victims in an evacuation center at the Catanduanes State College.
With the President in his Virac trip were Senator Francisco Tatad, a native of Catanduanes, Secretaries Orlando Mercado of the Department of National Defense (DND) and Gregorio Vigilar of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Mr. Estrada said the DPWH is now mapping out the repair and rehabilitation work needed, while the Department of Health (DOH) has kicked off a series of medical missions in the area.
The President also urged local officials to use the calamity funds well, saying there should be no politics involved.
"Kalimutan na natin ang pulitika. Ako ang inyong Pangulo at pare-pareho ang pagtingin ko sa inyo (Let us forget politics. I am your President, and I treat every one equally)," he said.
"Kung sino ang nangangailangan ng tulong, yun ang makakakuha ng tulong. Kung sino ang naghihirap yun ang dapat unahin tulungan, kaya makakaasa kayo na di namumuli tika si Erap. Si Erap ay tutulong na lamang at gagawin ang lahat na magagawa para maiahon sa kahirapan ang ating mga kababayan (Whoever needs help will get help. Whoever is in most need of help will get it first. I will not play politics. I will do everything I can to improve the lives of our poor countrymen)," he added.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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