By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Christopher “Bong” Go assured full government support to victims of Typhoon Odette that ravaged parts of the Visayas and Mindanao on December 16.
In an interview after distributing assistance to pandemic-hit residents of Barangays Pampanga and Hizon in Davao City on Tuesday, December 21, Go said that President Rodrigo Duterte is considering declaring a state of calamity in several regions in the aftermath of the calamity.
This would hasten the rescue, relief, and rehabilitation efforts of the government and the private sector, including any international humanitarian assistance.
The declaration of a state of calamity will also allow the imposition of a price ceiling for basic necessities and prime commodities by the President, programming/reprogramming of funds for the repair and safety upgrading of public infrastructures and facilities, utilization of the Quick Response Fund of LGUs within the areas affected by the disaster or calamity, among others.
“Ngayon po ay ine-expect natin na pipirmahan ni Pangulong Duterte po itong state of calamity sa mga affected areas para mapabilis ang tulong mula sa gobyerno at magamit kaagad nila ‘yung kanilang pondo. Lalung-lalo na po ngayon talaga apektado ‘yung national government pondo dahil ginagamit po sa COVID response,” said Go.
Go shared that Duterte has already instructed concerned agencies to source an additional PhP2 billion in calamity funds to the affected local government units and agencies involved in relief and rehabilitation.
“‘Yung calamity fund ng Pangulo, ubos talaga. Ginamit sa pambayad sa COVID response. At naghanap po ng paraan ang ating Pangulo na maglaan po ng two billion para sa calamity fund at magdagdag pa siya ng another two billion as contigent fund…,” he said.
Go then pointed out that it is crucial to ensure the provision of food and water and the immediate restoration of critical services in affected areas including electricity and telecommunications, emphasizing the need for restoring normalcy in the lives of the victims.
“Importante ngayon pagkain, tubig, restore normalcy kaagad. Return to normalcy ang importante dito, makabalik kaagad tayo sa normal na pamumuhay. Mahirap mag-Pasko na walang tubig, walang kuryente, walang makain,” said Go.
Earlier, Duterte reiterated his order to concerned agencies to coordinate with key players from the private sector, particularly energy and telecommunication companies, as well as other stakeholders, to facilitate the immediate restoration of services that have been disrupted by the typhoon.
He also ordered the National Housing Authority to exert all efforts possible to rebuild communities by providing housing materials and other aid needed to repair damaged homes or build new ones.
Go then expressed his sympathy to the families of those who lost their lives in the disaster, appealing to the rest of the Filipino people to help their compatriots during these trying times.
“Sa totoo lang po, kami ay nalulungkot. Sumisikip ang aking dibdib hanggang ngayon, sumisikip ang aking dibdib habang umiikot kami kapag nakikita mo ‘yung mga kababayan na nanghihingi ng tulong,” said Go.
“I am appealing for help po kung pwede niyong matulungan mga kababayan (natin). Magtulungan po tayo, mag malasakit at magtulungan, magbayanihan po tayo sa isa’t isa,” he added.
Go also mentioned that Duterte has directed the Department of Agriculture to provide boats to fisherfolk who have lost theirs in the typhoon, as well as food, water and other forms of assistance.
“Nagbigay na po ng direktiba si Pangulo sa Department of Agriculture para sa mga fisherfolks na bigyan kaagad ng mga bangka, pamumuhay nila dahil nasira. Pagkain, assistance, tubig,” shared the senator.
On December 20, Duterte and Go met with local leaders of Negros Occidental as well as neighboring Negros Oriental, and some Cabinet members in Kabankalan City for a situation briefing on the aftermath of Typhoon Odette. Negros Occidental is one of the provinces in the Western Visayas Region that has been severely affected by the typhoon, with at least 30 fatalities thus far.
Go and the President also conducted aerial inspections of typhoon-hit areas in Visayas and Mindanao on December 18 and 19. The two passed over Siargao Island before landing in Surigao City on Saturday. After surveying the damage at the airport, they conducted an aerial inspection of the Dinagat Islands before proceeding to Maasin City in Southern Leyte and turning over relief goods upon their return in Surigao City. The following day, they conducted similar aerial and site inspections of affected areas in Cebu and Bohol and attended a situation briefing as well.
During these visits, Duterte and Go extended aid and assured community leaders of continuous recovery efforts and unhampered public service delivery.
Meanwhile, Go shared that he and Duterte will return to the areas they previously visited to personally provide assistance to the victims and boost the rehabilitation efforts further.
“Bukas po babalik po kami ni Pangulo sa Surigao, sa Siargao at pupunta rin po kami sa Dinagat Islands dahil nag-aerial kami nung nakaraan para makapagbigay kaagad ng tulong at ma-address kaagad ‘yung problema,” he said.
Earlier, the senator expressed his confidence that the country will overcome these challenges with the Filipino people’s cooperation, ensuring that no one is left behind on the road to recovery and a better future.
“I’m appealing to my fellow Filipinos, magtulungan po tayo. Kawawa po, lalung-lalo na po ‘yung mahihirap. Maraming nananawagan halos hindi ko na po masagot sa dami po ng nananawagan po, tulungan po natin sila,” the senator urged.
“Kami po ni Pangulong Duterte ay tuluy-tuloy po ang aming pag-iikot at pagtutulong kaagad. Ma-address kaagad ang ganitong problema at makabalik po kaagad tayo. Return to normalcy kaagad ang gustong mangyari ni Pangulong Duterte,” he ended.