[PHOTO -President Benigno Aquino 3rd hands over financial assistance of P10,000 each for the families of casualties of Typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha) at the evacuation center in Don Lorenzo Sarmiento Sports Complex in Brgy. Cabinuan, New Bataan town, Compostela Valley on Friday during his visit to affected areas in Region XI. Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Juliano- Soliman assisted the President. MALACAÑANG PHOTO]

MANILA, DECEMBER 10, 2012 (MANILA TIMES) by Catherine S. Valente&William Depasupil Reporters - President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Friday questioned why hundreds of people still died from Typhoon Pablo (international codename: Bopha) despite the government’s disaster preparations.

The President expressed his lament on the big number of casualties in a visit to areas devastated by Pablo, where he assured victims that the government would work hard to find ways to prevent similar results from the disaster that has claimed more than 400 lives in Mindanao.

The official death toll stood at 418 on Friday, while the Agence France-Presse placed it at 514.

“Gusto kong malaman kung bakit nangyari ho itong trahedyang ito. Gusto kong makita rin kung paano natin maiiwasan na magkaroon [ng] ganitong trahedyang ulit [I want to find out why this tragedy happened and how we can keep these tragedies from happening again],” he said.

The President also said that the time is not for talking but for working to ensure that there will be no more casualties every time a disaster strikes.

“Hindi ho ako kuntento. Kailangan talaga habulin natin walang masasalanta tuwing may sasapit nitong ganitong pagkakataon. So hindi ho ito ang oras nang pagsasalita, oras po ng gawa [I am not satisfied. We need to ensure that there are no casualties every time there is a disaster. This is not a time for talk. It is a time to for work],” he added.

The President first visited New Bataan town, Compostela Valley, one of the hardest hit provinces with at least 251 dead. He helped hand out food packs to about 2,000 people in the community and distributed P10,000 each to families who lost loved ones to Pablo,. He assured residents that the government would not stop working to improve their lives and help them recover from the tragedy.

Pablo’s casualties are much less than the 1,257 killed when Typhoon Sendong (International codename: Washi) struck last December, but it has inflicted more damage to properties and has affected more people.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), on Friday, said that initial figures on damages inflicted by Pablo on infrastructures, agriculture and private properties had already reached P4.001 billion, far bigger than the 1.399-billion caused by Sendong.

NDRRMC chief Executive Director Benito Ramos said that Pablo affected 1,033,0364 families or 5,141, 356 persons in 1,862 barangays, 188 municipalities and 29 cities in 26 provinces, which also already exceeded Sendong’s record of 120,233 families or 1,141,252 persons in 815 villages, 57 towns and eight cities in 13 provinces.

He added that 26 municipalities and four provinces have already been placed under a state of calamity.

They are the provinces of Siquijor, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and Surigao del Sur and the towns of Magsaysay, Araceli, Roxas, San Vicente, Taytay and El Nido Cagayancillo, all in Palawan; Balci, Kapatagan, Kauswagan, Linamon, Matungano, Pantar, Pantao-Ragat, Salvador, Lanao del Norte; Gilagum, Kinoguitan, Lagonglong, Laguindingan, Libertad, Opol, Talisayan, and the cities of Gingoog and Cagayan de Oro in Misamis Oriental; Lopez Jaenan and Plaridel, Misamis Occidental; and Asuncion and San Isidro in Davao Del Norte.

Ramos said that seven bridges and 12 roads are still not passable, some parts of the provinces of Surigao del Sur, Lanao del Sur, Agusan del Sur and del Norte are still experiencing power outages and there is no supply of water in San Francisco and Poblacion Esperenza, Agusan del Sur.

Sen. Loren Legarda, chairman of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, said that Pablo unveiled the vulnerability of affected communities to natural hazards and extreme weather events brought about “mostly by poverty and environmental degradation.”

“We cannot afford recurring disaster losses from typhoons such as Pablo and Sendong in Mindanao. The proper dissemination of geohazard maps to our LGUs, as well as the proper implementation of these, should be done,” she said.

This came as a north route to the coastal municipalities of Boston, Cateel and Baganga in Davao Oriental province is now passable, allowing the delivery of more relief good to the towns earlier rendered isolated by Pablo.

Interior SecretaryManuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd today said that the towns are now accessible via the Bislig-Baganga route

Also acting on the request of Roxas, the Maritime Industry Authority has mobilized ship-owners and banca operators to assist in the relief operations.

Two fishing vessels, Edwin 8 and Zandrei, are now in Mati City and Governor Generoso town, respectively; ready to ship the relief goods to the affected coastal towns, Roxas said that ARashell and Twin also sailed from General Santos City for Mati to help deliver relief goods.

Another vessel, Red is assisting in the search and rescue operations for missing fishermen.

For nearly a week, the 150,000 residents in these coastal towns have been isolated from the rest of the province making it difficult to send much-needed aid such as water, food and medicines.

Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Friday expressed their condolences to the Filipinos and the Philippine government for the devastation wrought by Pablo

In a message sent to Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, President Archbishop Jose Palma, the Pope said that he “was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and the suffering” caused by the recent typhoon in the Philippines.

Several dioceses are set to conduct second collection in their Masses this Sunday for the victims of Pablo. Among the churches that will hold a second collection are those under the Archdiocese of Manila, Archdiocese of Jaro and the Diocese of Cubao as confirmed by Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo and Caritas Manila, Executive Director Fr. Anton Pascual.

The UN chief also assured that they will give the necessary assistance to the Philippines Pablo continued to move slowly away from the Philippines. the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration (Pagasa) said yesterday.

Pablo was estimated at 540 kilometer west of Ambulong, Batangas province carrying maximum sustained winds of 110 kilometer per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 140kph and is moving north-northwest at 7kph and is expected to be 495km west of Iba, Zambales province or outside the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) by Saturday.

No more storm signals are raised but Pagasa still advised fishing boats and other sea vessels not to venture out into the seaboards of northern and central Luzon and the western seaboard of southern Luzon as the Northwest monsoon or Hanging Amihan and an Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) are still affecting the Mindanao area.

While Pablo is no longer a threat, Pagasa said that they are still on the lookout for another cyclone inside the PAR before the year ends. That could be the 17th cyclone for this year that will be locally named as Quinta.

The state weather bureau said that it is also possible that a cyclone may form due to the ITCZ, a series of low-pressure areas.

With reports from AFP, Jing Villamente, Johanna M. Sampan, Neil Alcober and Anthony Vargas


Grim search for bodies: Mass graves in Compostela eyed as death toll soars (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 7, 2012 - 12:00am 

[PHOTO COURTESY OF MANILA BULLETIN -BODY SEARCH Amid toppled trees and crops, rescuers try to locate survivors and those who perished in the aftermath of typhoon ‘Pablo’ in Compostela Valley, Mindanao, in this December 7, 2012 photo released by the Malacañang Photo Bureau.]

NEW BATAAN , Philippines– A father lifted a plastic sheet, and wept as he recognized the body of his child among a row of bodies caked in mud and laid out on the ground.

A mother, on the other hand, went away in tears, unable to find her missing loved ones. “I have three children,” she said over and over, flashing three fingers before a TV cameraman.

Residents of this town in Compostela Valley yesterday went about the grim task of searching for missing relatives amid a growing pile of bodies.

As of early yesterday afternoon, at least 342 people had been confirmed killed, with over 400 more missing from landslides and floods triggered by super typhoon “Pablo.”

Along coastal communities and farming and mining towns in Compostela Valley, the hardest hit province, authorities mulled mass graves as the death toll soared and health personnel worried about the spread of diseases.

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, however, said they would need the approval of families to bury the dead in mass graves.

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Dionisia Requinto, 43, felt lucky to have survived with her husband and their eight children after rampaging floodwaters engulfed their home. She said they managed to climb a hill while bracing themselves against boulders and fallen trees.

“The water rose so fast. It was horrible. I thought it was going to be our end,” Requinto told journalists.

Compostela Valley registered the highest number of fatalities at 214, while 395 remained missing.

Among its worst-hit towns were New Bataan with 59 dead; Monkayo, 55; Compostela, 21; Mabini, four; Maragusan, three; Montevista, 10; Mt. Diwata, 11; Nabunturan, nine; Maco, three, Pantukan, two, and Laak, two.

The deaths came despite efforts by the government to force residents out of high-risk communities as the typhoon approached.

Last Wednesday, the sun shone brightly over the typhoon-ravaged areas, prompting villagers to bring their soaked belongings out to dry.

But when night fell, rain started pouring again, triggering panic among those fearful of a repeat of the previous day’s flash floods.

Davao Oriental Gov. Cora Malanyaon told The STAR that as of yesterday afternoon, the death toll in her province had reached 177. She said they didn’t know where to take the evacuees since all the evacuation centers lost their roofs.

Among the province’s worst-hit towns were Cateel with 59 dead; Baganga, 31; Boston, 27; Caraga, nine; and one each from Tarragona and Manay.

“Two days after typhoon Pablo hit Davao region, hundreds of dead bodies were retrieved and thousands of homeless people were left distressed on how to start anew,” Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, spokesman for the 10th Infantry Division said.

Paniza said rescuers are still trying to find seven persons in Cateel, Davao Oriental swept away by the rampaging floodwaters, while 13 others were also reported missing in Baganga town, and one from Manay. Rescue teams have yet to report on the exact number of missing from Boston town.

Aside from the high number of fatalities in the region, four persons also perished in Central Visayas, two in Eastern Visayas; 10 in Northern Mindanao and seven in Caraga region.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the number of deaths is likely to increase as hopes dim to recover alive the missing individuals.

P800-M damage to agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala estimated at P800 million the initial cost of damage Pablo brought to rice, corn, banana, and coconut plantations.

Alcala said most of the damage was incurred by the coconut industry at P500 million. He said around one million coconut trees were affected by the storm.

The DA chief said field personnel are now assessing the extent of the destruction to determine the appropriate assistance and the insurance coverage for farms.

He said the damage to rice crops was “minimal” because most of the affected areas were still in the vegetative stage and with chances for recovery.

Estimates on damage to bananas were still being tallied, although the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) said at least 10,000 hectares of banana plantations in Compostela Valley, Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, Surigao, and Bukidnon have been affected by the typhoon as of yesterday.

“If we translate this to value, it’s about P5.7-billion worth of harvest for the yearend. It’s a pretty expensive opportunity lost for the industry,” said PBGEA executive director Stephen Antig.

“But if we include the infrastructure that would shoot up to P8 billion,” he added.

Alcala said among the measures currently being considered by the agency is the provision of seedlings for affected rice and corn farmers.

He said banana tissue cultures would be obtained from surviving banana plantations to be used in damaged farms, while affected coconut farms would also be given additional farm inputs.

Sources said because of abundant harvest in the third quarter, the effects of the typhoon would not be immediately felt in the coconut export performance for the year.

Coconut production in the third quarter rose by 4.10 percent to 4.27 million metric tons from 4.10 million MT in the same period last year.

Extensive damage to power facilities

The Department of Energy (DOE) said the typhoon brought extensive damage to power facilities in Mindanao as electric posts were knocked down.

Pablo toppled 210 electricity posts, way above the normal 30-40 posts damaged in previous typhoons, data from the DOE showed.

The agency said they are eyeing to complete restoration and repair of the damaged facilities before the Christmas holidays.

“The problem that we have is although majority of Mindanao has power right now, the coastal towns of Cateel – this is in Davao Oriental – Boston and Baganga were really badly hit,” Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said in a television interview.

Petilla said among the major cities that do not have power yet are Bislig City in Surigao del Sur and Mati in Davao Oriental.

“Basically, we are trying to target that before Christmas, the power will be restored 100 percent,” Petilla said.

He said new facilities that are part of the Office of the President’s Sitio Electrification Program would replace the damaged posts and lines.

Meanwhile the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), the country’s power transmission service provider, said it has completed restoration of transmission lines in the Visayas.

“As of 5:00 a.m. Dec. 6, all 230-kilovolt, 138-kV and 69-kV transmission and sub-transmission lines and substations of the NGCP in the Visayas have been operating under normal conditions,” the grid operator said.

The power transmission service was normalized following the completion of the repair of the Amlan-Dumaguete 69-kV line and the Amlan-Bindoy-Guihulngan 69-kV line.

Bar victims from danger zone

Vice President Jejomar Binay yesterday ordered local government units, police and military officials in Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte and Agusan del Sur not to allow victims of typhoon Pablo to return to their homes, particularly in areas classified as danger zones.

Binay, chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), flew to Mindanao early yesterday to assess the damage caused by Pablo in Davao and Compostela Valley.

He checked the conditions of the typhoon victims and met with officials of the three provinces.

“For their own safety, residents should not be allowed to return to danger zones,” he told local executives.

The Vice President also visited the towns of New Bataan in Compostela Valley, Cateel in Davao del Norte and Lingig in Surigao del Sur.

He appealed to the private sector to help those in evacuation centers.

“The government, the private sector and everyone must join hands in helping the victims recover,” Binay said.

He said his office would be distributing 10,000 bags containing instant noodles, biscuits and canned goods in the three provinces and housing and agricultural support should also be given attention.

Binay expressed concern over the negative effect of typhoon Pablo on agriculture, particularly the banana and coconut industries.

“About 500 hectares were affected, equivalent to P5 billion worth of damage,” he said.

Binay said he would ask President Aquino to provide new homes for the victims.

“We will bring roofs and other building materials for the reconstruction of the victims’ houses,” Binay said.

He reminded typhoon victims who are members of the Home Development Mutual (Pag-IBIG) Fund to avail of the calamity loan.

US offers help

The United States extended its condolences and offered to help the country deal with the typhoon’s devastation. It praised government efforts to minimize the deaths and damage.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies issued an urgent appeal for $4.8 million to help people directly affected by the typhoon. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Maridith Regalado, John Unson, Ben Serrano, Czeriza Valencia, Neil Jerome Morales, Jaime Laude, AP

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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