20 December 2011

State of national calamity declared


President Benigno S. Aquino III on Tuesday declared a state of national calamity following the devastation brought by tropical storm “Sendong” in some parts of Visayas and Mindanao.
The President personally visited on Tuesday Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, and Dumaguete City, areas hardest hit by “Sendong.”
Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the declaration of a state of national means that a price freeze will be automatic and will cover basic necessities.
She said the price freeze will stay in effect for 60 days unless lifted, adding that no-interest loans will be available as long as the state of calamity is in effect.
Aquino said he wants to prioritize the search for missing individuals, noting that there is a need to fine-tune the system to prevent loss of lives from natural disasters.
“My concern right now is the missing [persons], specifically, let us exhaust all possible means to try and find all of these missing individuals. The Cabinet has been given instructions specific to their respective areas of concern and responsibility,” Aquino said.
“We will be assisting not only Cagayan and Iligan, but also Negros Oriental, Ilocos Norte, and Iloilo. We’d like to assure you that we are going to fine-tune all of the systems in place so that we can prevent similar tragedy from happening,” he added.
Aquino also said a fact-finding team will be created to “determine exactly where we can still augment the systems and procedures in place so that [there will be] no casualties of this magnitude ever again.”
"I do not accept that everything had been done. I know that we can do more. We must determine what really happened," Aquino said. "Must this end in tragedy? We knew that (storm) was coming. There should have been efforts to avoid the destruction."
Aquino pinpointed deforestation and illegal logging as among the factors for the massive flooding.
According to Aquino, components replacement is estimated at P54 million, deployment of automatic water sensors in 18 major river basins is pegged at P150 million, and another P150 million is needed for the core shelter for Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.
Aquino said there are still P1.17 billion in calamity funds available but he has asked Congress for supplemental funding.
“We have other funds on top, including a World Bank facility for disaster risk,” he added.
In Iligan City, Aquino turned over the notice of cash allocation worth P50 million to Mayor Lawrence Cruz that will come from the local support fund. About P28 million will be allocated for the cash-for-work program for Iligan, Cagayan de Oro, and El Salvador in Misamis Oriental for maintenance and clean-up work.
Aquino assured that illegal logging will be curbed by the government in Mindanao, noting that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has a new officer-in-charge (OIC) governor in Mujiv Hataman, who took his oath in Malacañang last Monday.
He said his administration is mulling for the full development of the ARMM.

By MADEL R. SABATER and AARON B. RECUENCO
mb.com.ph

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