MANILA, OCTOBER 5, 2009 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - President Arroyo yesterday sought to lift the spirits of Filipinos battered by two powerful typhoons that left hundreds of people dead and laid waste to many parts of the country in a week.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the President is exerting all efforts to fast-track relief and rehabilitation of the victims affected by the storms.

Remonde made the assurance amid threats of another typhoon coming within the week.

“President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, with Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, is reiterating her reassurance to the Filipino people that we are doing everything we can to extend relief and pursue rehabilitation work in earnest to ease the suffering of our countrymen hit by ‘Ondoy’ and ‘Pepeng,’” Remonde said.

“We must not lose hope,” he said.

Remonde said the President is grateful to Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales for leading the “Oratio Imperata,” or the mandatory prayer for the country.

He said the devastation caused by Ondoy and Pepeng, as well as the threat of more weather disturbance, should serve as a lesson for Filipinos to preserve the environment and prepare for calamities.

Remonde said Mrs. Arroyo is reiterating her call for Filipinos to rekindle the “bayanihan” spirit to hasten the nation’s return to normalcy.

Mrs. Arroyo earlier placed the country under the state of calamity in the wake of flooding and destruction left by Ondoy.

Remonde said the state of calamity would remain in effect as necessary.

Mrs. Arroyo also ordered government agencies to speed up the clearing of esteros and waterways in Metro Manila and nearby provinces to ease up the flooding in some areas that are still submerged more than a week after Ondoy struck.

Mrs. Arroyo led the government’s conditional cash transfer program in a visit to Gabaldon town in Nueva Ecija yesterday.

In the afternoon, Mrs. Arroyo proceeded to Guagua, Pampanga to inspect the dikes damaged by Ondoy as well as inspect the construction of roads in the town.

Mrs. Arroyo is scheduled to stay overnight and continue her relief assistance work in Pampanga and Bulacan today.

In the afternoon, Mrs. Arroyo is scheduled to receive the donations from the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Malacañang.

Remonde called on the people to cooperate with the government in its relief and rehabilitation work to allow the nation to recover quickly.

Remonde noted the increasing opposition against the plan to permanently relocate residents in high-risk areas in Metro Manila.

He said some of them have even resorted to text brigades.

“They should not resist efforts to relocate them while others should not spread false and alarming messages and rumors that could aggravate the situation and even lead to more harm,” Remonde said.

“If we receive such alarming text messages, let’s verify them first before making decisions,” he said.

Presidential adviser for Mindanao Jesus Dureza, for his part, appealed for more help from donor organizations in the region for assistance to Metro Manila and other provinces devastated by the floods.

“We sympathize with Metro Manila flood victims and we appeal for help. But, lest we forget, some parts of Mindanao also experienced flooding as residual effect of Ondoy,” Dureza said.

Dureza added that while greater focus is now being directed at providing relief support to typhoon victims of Luzon, particularly the flooded areas of Metro Manila, the government is also addressing flooding victims in Mindanao.

A report from Strengthening Response to Internal Displacement in Mindanao (StRIDe-Mindanao) Project, said floods in Maguindanao affected 18,000 families; 22,318 in North Cotabato; and 5,383 in Sultan Kudarat.

GMA visits Pampanga for 27th time this year By Ding Cervantes (The Philippine Star) Updated October 05, 2009 12:00 AM

LUBAO, Pampanga, Philippines – President Arroyo visited the province’s second district yesterday – her 27th this year – this time to distribute relief goods to flood victims in Guagua town.

The President’s visit was initially scheduled last Sept. 27 but it was cancelled due to tropical storm “Ondoy.”

The President stayed overnight in the province as she is slated to go today to neighboring Lubao, her hometown, where Ondoy also aborted the planned commemoration of the birth anniversary of her late father, former President Diosdado Macapagal, last Sept. 28.

The regional office of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) said the President arrived at 2 p.m. yesterday and distributed relief goods to flood victims in the Guagua barangays of San Jose, San Juan Nepo, San Miguel, San Agustin and San Roque.

Most barangays in Guagua, one of the perennially flooded towns in the province, remain submerged more than a week since Ondoy battered Metro Manila and neighboring regions.

The President was supposed to attend a Mass commemorating her father’s birth anniversary at the Lubao parish church in Barangay San Nicolas last Sept. 28, but this was scrapped due to Ondoy’s devastation.

The President was also supposed to visit a mini museum in the nipa hut where her father was born to poor farming folk in San Nicolas on Sept. 28, 1910.

Meanwhile, the provincial office of the Department of Trade and Industry said the President will witness the turnover of bamboo desks to the Graciano Paule Elementary School in Lubao, which was also cancelled last week.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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