GOVT WILL COME OUT W/ A P10-BILLION EXTRA BUDGET FOR 'ONDOY' VICTIMS
MANILA, OCTOBER 1, 2009 (STAR) By Delon Porcalla -The government will come out with a P10-billion supplemental budget to help victims of tropical storm “Ondoy” and rebuild devastated areas.
Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said he has received an assurance from Finance Secretary Margarito Teves that the amount is sustainable. The Senate leadership vowed to have the budget program approved.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile made the commitment in a meeting Tuesday night with lawmakers and some Cabinet officials.
“We have to address the problems of these people,” Enrile said, referring to the typhoon victims.
“The amount is determined on the basis of the borrowing capacity of the government. Also in anticipation of the other typhoons that may come and inflict injuries to other people,” he said.
The Senate chief also explained that the road user’s tax could not be used as proposed by Sen. Miriam Santiago because “that money is for a specific purpose.”
“Some of it will be used for repairs and maintenance of the roads and bridges destroyed. It’s the real purpose of road user’s tax,” Enrile said.
“We are drafting now the resolution, if possible we’ll pass it before the break. It is supplemental because it is outside of the budget submitted by the President. We never anticipated that there will be Ondoy,” he said.
Also at the dinner meeting were Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Edgardo Angara, Loren Legarda and Rodolfo Biazon.
The House contingent was composed of Deputy Speaker Raul del Mar, House Deputy Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, Quirino Rep. Junie Cua and An Waray Rep. Florencio “Bem” Noel.
Andaya was at the meeting, representing the executive department, along with Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane.
Zubiri said 30 percent of the P10 billion could go to the victims of typhoon “Frank” which severely damaged infrastructure in Panay and other areas.
“They still do not have bridges and water systems. It’s been over a year. A portion of that will go to typhoon Frank victims in Panay but about 70 percent will go to the victims of Ondoy,” Zubiri said.
“It is intended for augmenting the calamity fund of the President, which has been depleted,” Cua, chair of the House committee on appropriations, said.
“We thought of an approach to just proceed with a supplemental budget to increase the calamity fund to be used for the damages caused by typhoon,” Cua said.
For his part, Noel, who represents the House minority bloc, said the “bill is expected to be filed anytime (soon) by leaders of the House of Representatives.”
“This is a very urgent measure that must be approved with dispatch,” he said.
“The objective (of the rehabilitation program) is to bring back normalcy to people’s lives,“ NDCC director and deputy presidential spokesperson Anthony Golez told reporters. “So after this – after the relief and rescue efforts – the local government units must start writing their rehabilitation plans or must start doing the blueprint on how they will try to bring back normalcy.”
For her part, Legarda said the government must formulate a rapid evacuation plan to ensure families are moved out of high-risk areas even before disaster strikes.
She cited the case of Vietnam where casualties from “Ketsana” were fewer because of a well-organized evacuation plan.
Legarda said the Vietnamese government, based on wire reports, evacuated some 170,000 people before the typhoon struck. Only about 23 Vietnamese were killed, most of them after being hit by falling tees and debris.
The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) put the casualty figure as of yesterday at 296. Damage to infrastructure amounted to P1.5 billion and to agriculture P3.2 billion, Teodoro, NDCC chair, said.
A total of 1,939,729 people or 334,959 families have been affected by the flooding brought by Ondoy.
Earlier, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman proposed to President Arroyo an increase in the National Expenditure Program to include a P10-billion funding for the country’s flood-control program.
At relief centers yesterday, mostly women and children clutching bags of belongings lined up at relief centers for bottled water, boiled eggs and packets of instant noodles for a fourth day.
Their husbands waded through sludge to return to their homes to clean up the mud – sometimes two feet deep – that carpeted their houses and shops.
The homes of some 2.3 million people are affected, and 390,000 are seeking shelter in relief centers, disaster officials said.
“What happened was, the water suddenly rose. We did not know that the water would reach the second floor, so we went up to the roof but the roof gave in, so we just floated in the water holding on to a trunk of a banana tree,” said Herminio Abahat, whose wife is still missing.
Abahat said he and his wife were swept to a river and eventually separated by the raging currents.
Thick, gooey mud lay in the streets in some places, while others were still under a foot or two of water. But the main downtown business and tourist district was largely unscathed.
In Marikina, police used forklifts to remove mud-caked cars stalled along the road.
Elsewhere, people used shovels and brooms to muck brown mud from their homes and businesses, some of which were inundated up to the second floor.
In Bagong Silangan in Quezon City, about 150 people sheltered in a covered basketball court that had been turned into a makeshift evacuation center for storm victims.
People lay on pieces of cardboard amid piles of garbage and swarming flies, their belongings crammed into bags nearby.
Seventeen white wooden coffins, some of them child-sized, lined one part of the court. A woman wept quietly beside one coffin.
Gingery Comprendio, a mother of five, described how she left her children on the roof of their house to alert authorities about a live electric line. When she returned, her family was gone.
“I did not know what transpired. We were on top of a roof, but we got separated,” Comprendio said. “The next day when I came back to our house I saw my eldest already dead and my aunt saw my other child buried in the mud.” Her husband also remains missing.
Sensitive to criticism that her administration was unprepared to respond to the disaster, Mrs. Arroyo launched a public relations offensive to show her administration was doing all it could to help – even while conceding the country needed international aid.
She opened part of the presidential palace as a relief center, and hundreds of people received food and made free phone calls to friends and relatives.
Presidential Management Staff chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said up to 500 victims would be given blankets and other supplies and allowed to stay in the palace grounds after they had undergone security checks, starting with about 50 people on Tuesday night.
Returning to homes
Over 8,000 families displaced by Ondoy have left evacuation centers and retuned to their homes, Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said yesterday.
“This development indicates that people have begun to go back to their homes and are starting to rebuild their lives. Filipinos are resilient and have the ability and capacity to bounce back after a disaster such as Ondoy,” said Cabral.
To date, Cabral said the DSWD has provided more than P5.5-million worth of assistance consisting of rice, bread, hot meals, and canned goods, as well as non-food commodities like mats, blankets, and clothes to the affected families in the National Capital Region, Regions III, IV-A, IV-B, V, and Cordillera Administrative Region.
“The DSWD has also been utilizing goods donated by the public as well as non-government organizations and corporations to augment its resources,” Cabral said.
She said President Arroyo has allowed the entry of donated goods tax-free.
“With the massive devastation brought about by tropical storm Ondoy, we need to muster all support from various sectors so that we can deliver the needed services for the typhoon victims,” Cabral said.
“We are now coordinating with the Department of Finance to facilitate the entry of foreign donations intended for the victims of tropical storm Ondoy,” Cabral said. With Aurea Calica, Helen Flores, Mike Frialde, Paolo Romero, Jaime Laude, AP
MALAYA NEWS REPORT
Relief funds down to P24M; solons pledge extra P10B BY VICTOR REYES
(MALAYA) THE calamity fund of the National Disaster Coordinating Council for this year is down to just P24 million from P2 billion but Congress is passing a measure for a P10 billion supplemental budget to address the effects of storm "Ondoy."
"The calamity fund of the NDCC is now low but this is being augmented," said Defense Secretary and concurrent NDCC chairman Gilberto Teodoro Jr.
Teodoro clarified the NDCC’s calamity fund is meant for rehabilitation and preparation for a possible calamity, and not for response or relief operations, although it is used for relief.
He also said the fund is separate from the calamity fund of line agencies for disaster relief and response.
At least 373,675 families or 2.2 million persons were affected by Ondoy which hit Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon over the weekend and left 246 people dead.
Of the figure, 78,892 families or 389,616 persons are staying in evacuation centers.
Ondoy also damaged a total of P4.80 billion, P1.59 billion for infrastructure and P3.21 billion for agriculture.
Teodoro said the government can sustain relief operations "for as long as it is necessary because this is basic government services."
He said there is no shortage of relief goods. The problem, he said, is bringing the supplies to people in areas still under water specially at night when water current is strong.
He said they are considering using military airlift to drop supplies to the stranded residents.
"To sustain the relief operations, we do not need anything. The government and its agencies have the resources for that but you sacrifice resources for rehabilitation. Even if we need to give relief everyday, 365 days a year, we can do it and we have to it," he said.
Teodoro said the lawmakers volunteered to come up with the supplemental budget.
He said he met with Senate and House leaders Tuesday night and discussed with them how Congress can help in disaster response.
Among present in the meeting were Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile; Senators Rodolfo Biazon, Edgardo Angara, Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Loren Legarda; and Reps. Raul del Mar, Neptali Gonzales II, Florencio Noel and Junie Cua.
Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane and Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. were also in the meeting.
"We did not ask (for it). This is entirely an idea of both the House and Senate on how they can help," he said.
Teodoro said the plan is to "equitably divide" the budget for those Ondong and typhoon "Frank" which hit Iloilo last year. Teodoro said Frank left about P8 billion in damage, or four times the calamity fund.
Cua (Lakas-Kampi, Quirino), chair of the House committee on appropriations, said the item is "intended for augmenting the calamity fund of the President, which has been depleted."
Zubiri said Congress could hopefully pass the budget next week or before Congress adjourns session on October 16.
He said 30 percent of the fund would also go to victims of last year’s typhoon and the rehabilitation of roads and bridges due to typhoon Frank.
Zubiri said the P10 billion could not be sourced from the road user’s tax as suggested by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago.
US troops with heavy equipment will be deployed today in Quezon City, Marikina, Cainta, and Pasig for clean-up activities and distribution and transport of relief goods.
The deployment is under the civil military operations module of two military exercises with US – dubbed Phiblex and Talon Vision.
Two teams of US doctors, composed of eight men each, are going to Marikina and Quezon City also today.
Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, chief of the AFP public affairs office, said the US initially committed five seven-ton trucks, five Humvee vehicles, a bulldozer, two forklifts and about 30 personnel.
He said the initial plan was that the US soldiers will be involved in the humanitarian mission for two weeks but this can be extended if the need arises.
The military training under the two exercises will be held from October 2 to 28.
Teodoro appealed to residents in Taytay, Rizal to be calm, following reports that the residents threw stones at a truck of civilian volunteers carrying relief goods.
He said similar actions will be dealt with severely under the law.
Director Leopoldo Bataoil of the Directorate for Police Community Relations said the residents appeared to have been irked because the relief goods were not given to them. He also said that some volunteers were mobbed by victims during the distribution of relief goods.
Teodoro asked civilians volunteers to coordinate with the Department of Social Welfare and Development the distribution of relief goods and with the PNP so they can be given escorts.
The European Commission has given €2 million or about P140 million for relief and sent an expert team to assess the needs of Ondoy victims.
China gave $100,000 (about P4.7 million).
Chinese Ambassador Liu Jianchao handed the check, under the name of the DSWD, to Foreign Affairs Acting Secretary Franklin Ebdalin.
The Chinese Embassy earlier donated US$10,000 to the Philippine National Red Cross.
The Germans gave €500,000 (about $731,000 or P35 million).
German President Horst Köhler also wrote President Arroyo to express sympathies, as did Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.
Vietnam pledged about $208,333 worth of rice.
Last Tuesday, the United Nations pledged to sent humanitarian missions to the country to help in the rescue efforts, while the countries United States, Japan and South Korea have also extended assistance.
International organizations such as the World Health Organization and the Asian Development Bank have also provided financial aid for the medical and social needs of victims and local governments affected.
The PNP Officers’ Ladies Club headed by Cynthia Verzosa, wife of PNP chief Jesus Verzosa, distributed relief goods to police personnel in flood affected areas in Marikina City.
More than 85 percent of the police force was severely affected by the flooding.
The country’s largest nursing association asked for additional nursing volunteers.
Teresita Barcelo, president of the Philippine Nursing Association, said volunteers can get in touch with Ofelia Hernando, chair of the PNA Disaster Committee at cellular phone number 09176237127.
About 100 nurse-volunteers from the PNA joined volunteer doctors from the Philippine Medical Association in rendering medical assistance to residents in West Riverside, Frisco, Novaliches, Tatalon and North Fairview all in Quezon City, Pasig, Marikina, Cainta, Bulacan, Pampanga and Laguna.
Barcelo said PNA chapters nationwide have also already started soliciting relief goods.
She said the organization has so far received cash donations amounting to P110,000 and assorted boxes of relief goods from its members and officers. – With JP Lopez, Wendell Vigilia, Raymond Africa, Evangeline de Vera, Genivi Factao and Ashzel Hachero
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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