President Rodrigo Duterte had all hands on deck in the government’s massive response to aid thousands of residents affected by Sunday’s eruption of the Taal Volcano.
Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, who accompanied the President in an aerial inspection over Taal yesterday, said that the Chief Executive has ordered all concerned government agencies to ensure that all affected people will receive proper and timely assistance.
The President, Go said, particularly instructed the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Health (DoH), Department of Energy (DoE), Department of National Defense (DND) to ensure the safety and protection of residents.
Other agencies were ordered to mobilize teams to deliver government assistance to the affected areas.
“He (Mr. Duterte) wants to make sure that all agencies under the executive, for the DoH to ensure the health, masks should be distributed immediately. The DSWD to look after those staying in the evacuation centers,” Go said in a broadcast interview.
“The Armed Forces must deploy air assets of the Philippine Air Force. The DoE should restore power,” he added.
Go said that the national government will be ready to provide necessary support to all local government units (LGU).
“The President is also worried because he said if the government, business is paralyzed, it will be a huge loss to our country,” the senator said.
“The President is monitoring the situation in all the affected provinces,” Go added.
In a press conference, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is concurrent chairman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), assured that government is ready for massive rescue operation, if necessary.
At the same time, Lorenzana said the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and the DSWD has enough supplies to provide to the affected residents.
“We can handle it, it’s only January, we have enough resources… and we have a very good structure in coordinating our responses,” Lorenzana said.
Secretary Eduardo Año, of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), has placed the entire Philippine National Police (PNP) to full disaster response status.
At the same time, Ano called on all LGU officials to activate their respective action centers to ensure the delivery of services to their constituents. He warned those who will be not be in their places of jurisdiction durig the crisis.
The DoH has already started distributing P1.5 million worth of N95 masks and eye drops to affected residents.
The DoE, through the Task Force on Energy Resilience, went on full alert on Sunday. Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi ordered close monitoring of power plants, transmission and distribution wires in the area.
Cusi also called for close monitoring of prices of petroleum products.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), in an advisory, warned retailers from taking advantage of the surge in demand of basic supplies, particularly protective masks, due to the eruption of Taal Volcano.
The DTI said it received reports that some retailers have “jacked-up” the prices of gas masks, face masks and other similar items as the demand shoots up due to the ongoing hazardous ashfall.
For its part, the Department of Transportation (DoTr), through the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Region IV, has placed eight buses on standby to aid in the evacuation.
The DoTr, in coordination with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), is closely monitoring airport operations following cancellation of flights since Sunday. As of press time yesterday, there was already partial restoration of departing and arriving flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
The Davao City government is also sending 5,000 food packs to families displaced by the eruption of the Taal Volcano.
The city through Task Force Davao is also accepting donations from Dabawenyos, who may want to help the displaced families.
Task Force Davao Commander Colonel Consolito Yecla, whose unit had been tasked to distribute the relief goods, said his troops are now preparing the food packs for the families, who are have settled in temporary shelters since Sunday.
People who want to donate may visit the headquarters of Task Force Davao at the Sta. Ana Wharf Compound.
State of calamity
As of noon time yesterday, the Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office reported a total of 2,534 families composed of about 16,680 individuals have been evacuated to safer grounds since Sunday afternoon.
The evacuees came from the towns of Talisay, Balete, Agoncillo and Laurel all in Batangas province which was placed under the state of calamity
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), meanwhile, moved to clear road networks temporarily closed due to thick ashfall apart from sending out assets to assist in the evacuation efforts.
The Department of Agriculture (DA), through its Agricultural Credit and Policy Council (ACPC), is setting up an emergency loan assistance program for the affected farmers and fisher folks.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the DA will provide an interest-free emergency loan of P25,000 payable in three years under the Survival and Recovery loan program.
Dar said affected farmers and fisherfolk may also have an option to borrow a higher amount under the recently-launched Micro and Small Agribusiness Program.
Dar emphasized that the priority of the department is to ensure the safety of farmers, fisherfolk, their families, and other rural folks, including their farm animals.
The Philippine Red Cross has deployed disaster response teams, complemented by assets composed of five ambulances, a rescue truck, a 6×6 truck and a multi-purpose vehicle.
The Ayala-owned Manila Water Company Services dispatched 30 water tankers to provide safe water to the evacuees in various sites in Region IV-A, particularly in Tanauan City, Sto. Tomas and Batangas City which now serve as safe refuge to residents of other Batangas localities.
Relatedly, the management of the SM Mall of Asia Complex denied information that circulated on social media yesterday saying the foundation of the Mall of Asia has been compromised.
At the same time, the SM management denied calling for any meeting with engineers regarding the matter.
“The Mall of Asia Complex in on normal operations,” the SM management said in a statement.