Government rushes preparations to limit damage from ‘Ramil’ typhoon – Philippines

Written by Rene Acosta / Reporter

Tuesday, 20 October 2009 22:27

WITH all the preparations done, the next thing the government hopes is that Typhoon Ramil will not bring destruction as the country is still reeling from the effects of the past two typhoons.

“All preparations have been done to ‘welcome’ Ramil, but, these preparations are mainly aimed at mitigating the typhoon’s impact when it hits land,” National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) executive officer Glenn Rabonza said.

“Disaster-mitigation equipment, foods medicines, relief goods and other forms of life-support systems have already been prepositioned in various areas. We have been doing this since last Saturday,” he added.

Weather-bureau officials on Tuesday raised Storm Signal 2 over Cagayan province, the Batanes Group of Islands, Calayan Island, the Babuyan Islands and Isabela.

Signal 1 is hoisted over Ilocos Norte, Apayao, Abra, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Aurora and Polilio Island.

Rabonza said that with the massive disaster preparations, the NDCC is already leaving it up to the local executives to take the measures in looking after the welfare of their constituents.

“Those living along the coastlines under Signal 2 are advised to be on alert against big waves generated by Ramil,” he said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Ramil was tracked 820 kilometers east northeast of Aparri, Cagayan, packing maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers per hour near the center and a gustiness of up to 230 kph.

The typhoon was forecast to move westward at 17 kph.

The typhoon was projected to be 460 km east northeast of Aparri, Cagayan, on Wednesday and 120 km northeast of Aparri, Cagayan, by Thursday.

Unicef prepositions supplies

The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has prepositioned $200,000 worth of supplies in four strategic locations in Northern Luzon in preparation for Typhoon Ramil.

The supplies consist of emergency health kits that contain essential drugs for adults and children, buckets and water-purification tablets for 8,000 families, and kits containing blankets, sleeping mats, water jugs and cooking pots for families in evacuation centers.

In coordination with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Health, the supplies are strategically located in San Fernando City, La Union; La Trinidad, Benguet; Tuguegarao City, Cagayan; and Rosales, Pangasinan.

“We know that many of the evacuation centers are running low on supplies, and many families exhausted their reserves after Typhoon Pepeng. These deliveries contain essential supplies that families need to survive and stay healthy in the first days of an emergency, and by positioning them in key locations, we can ensure we can help those most in need quickly,” Vanessa Tobin, Unicef country representative, said.

Pag-IBIG releases P6.3B in calamity loans

VICE President Noli de Castro, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council chairman, and the Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF) board of trustees on Tuesday informed that the Pag-IBIG Fund has already released a total of P6.3 billion to members affected by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng since the agency started processing calamity-loan applications on September 28.

“As of October 19, the Pag-IBIG Fund has received 539,008 applications from affected members in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon, of which 367,405 have already been approved,” said de Castro.

With the volume of applications the agency receives on a daily basis, de Castro earlier approved the release of an additional P3 billion over and above the P3-billion funding earmarked for Pag-IBIG’s calamity-loan program.

“With the extent of devastation caused by the typhoons, the number of calamity-loan applications we receive on a daily basis is 12 times more than what the fund attends to during normal situations. For the past two weeks, we received an average of 30,000 calamity-loan applications daily in the aftermath of Ondoy and Pepeng,” said Jaime Fabiaña, HDMF chief executive officer.

Long queues of clients have been a common sight in HDMF offices servicing members in calamity-stricken areas. “Vice President de Castro instructed us to undertake measures that will expedite the processing of applications. We tapped employee volunteers even from our branches in Mindanao and the Visayas to augment the existing manpower by helping receive and process applications. We also asked our vice presidents to help in the signing of the calamity-loan checks,” Fabiana stressed.

He expects that the volume of clients will start to wane in the coming two to three weeks “as more and more affected members are able to claim their loan proceeds.”

Under the Pag-IBIG calamity-loan program, active fund members who have paid at least 24 monthly contributions and who are residents of localities declared as calamity areas are qualified to apply. Qualified fund members can borrow up to 80 percent of their total accumulated savings. The loan has a five-month grace period and is payable in 24 months. Members with existing short-term loans with Pag-IBIG can still avail themselves of the assistance.

Zubiri calls for review of proposed relocation sites

SENATE Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, meanwhile, urged the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the National Housing Authority to review and reassess the safety of the proposed relocation sites for the 544,609 families living along the waterways in Metro Manila.

Zubiri raised the concern following the devastation to the metropolis and Northern Luzon caused by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng that spawned record-breaking floods in Metro Manila, Bulacan and Isabela; disastrous dam spills in Pangasinan and fatal landslides in Benguet.

“The proposed relocation sites for the informal settlers in the coastal communities were not exempted from the recent catastrophe that ravaged Metro Manila and the northern regions. I therefore call on all government agencies concerned to review and reassess the condition of the proposed transfer sites as these areas are more dangerous to illegal settlers,” Zubiri said.

Among the areas being considered as relocation sites include Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac and Laguna.

He said: “While the need to relocate the informal settlers near and around the coastal communities in Metro Manila requires urgent action, the agencies in charge should see to it that the safety and protection of the people are properly considered.”

Zubiri likewise called for stricter monitoring of floodways to prevent squatters from dwelling in areas surrounding the waterways.

“By not properly monitoring floodways against informal settlers, it is like allowing and tolerating them. In order to prevent this from further happening, and so as not to give additional burden on the part of government, especially in terms of rescue and recovery during disaster and calamity, the government should always be on the lookout,” he said.