Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Vice Pres. Robredo identifies top 10 Bicol towns devastated by 'Nina'
By John Mark Escandor

NAGA CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- Vice President Leni Robredo has identified the top 10 towns in Albay, Camarines Sur and Catanduanes that bore the brunt of Typhoon Nina when it barreled through the Bicol region last Christmas Day with peak winds of 185 km. per hour.

“The 10 Bicol towns are Bato, Baras and San Andres in Catanduanes; Tiwi in Albay; and Sagñay, Buhi, Bula, Ocampo, Pili and Pasacao in Camarines Sur,” she said.

In an interview, Vice President Robredo said that nearly a month since the typhoon, she was able to consult with the mayors of the affected areas, some of whom appealed for rehabilitation assistance in terms of building materials and alternative livelihood rather than food packs.

She cited that in Bato, Catanduanes, where 1,700 houses were destroyed by the typhoon, Mayor Leo Rodriguez requested “iron sheets rather than canvasses” to help families rebuild their homes.

“Rodriguez also appealed for assistance for alternative livelihood for his constituents and fast-growing crops that can be harvested in a short period of time, as a form of rehabilitation assistance,” she said.

She added that Buhi town Mayor Margie Arguinillo also lamented the “lack of assistance to rebuild homes” in the villages in her town, where most houses were flattened by the typhoon.

Robredo said that next month, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will extend PHP5,000 in shelter assistance to each family whose house was destroyed by 'Nina'.

Noting that the amount is insufficient, Robredo recalled that when Typhoon Glenda hit the third district of Camarines Sur when she was still a congresswoman, they were able to raise funds from private donations and provide PHP20,000 to each family whose house was leveled.

“The PHP20,000 and ‘bayanihan’ labor was sufficient in helping the typhoon victims build semi-concrete houses,” she said.

Robredo further said that what is worrisome are the losses sustained by the agriculture sector, estimated at more than PHP5 billion by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Due to the absence of additional assistance for 'Nina' victims from foreign embassies, on top of the national government’s commitment of PHP500 million for agricultural rehabilitation, the vice president encouraged local government units (LGUs) to directly ask for assistance from foreign development agencies for their rehabilitation efforts.

Robredo emphasized that 'Nina' victims would need “building materials and alternative livelihood more than relief assistance, like food packs” during the rehabilitation phase.

She said representatives of the DSWD, DA, Office of Civil Defense, Philippine Coconut Authority, Department of Education, and Department of Trade and Industry have already provided the mayors of affected areas with the documentary requirements so they could access government help.

“With the absence of request for assistance from the national government to foreign embassies like the United States of America or the European Union, the available local resources of the local government units and private donors to rehabilitate the hardest hit areas will not be sufficient,” said Robredo.

She said she had spoken with the United Nations Development Program and European Union and was told that a request from the national government is required for them to extend assistance but they are also open to LGUs seeking assistance directly from them. (PNA) CVL/GVR/JME/CBD