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CREATE TASK FORCE FOR REHAB OF TYPHOON-HIT AREAS

Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte has proposed to President Duterte the creation of a special task force to take charge of rehabilitating Camarines Sur (CamSur), Catanduanes, Albay, and other areas in Bicol and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) that were ravaged by typhoons Quinta and Rolly.

Villafuerte made this proposal as he welcomed President Duterte’s aerial inspection of the distressed areas in Bicol and Calabarzon, saying this would somehow give the Chief Executive immediate and first-hand information on the extent of the havoc wrought by super typhoons Quinta and Rolly on the worst-hit provinces.

This special body could be akin to Task Force Bangon Marawi, which Malacañang created three years ago to work on the rehabilitation of Marawi City in Lanao del Sur, in the wake of its five-month siege by an alliance of Islamic State (IS)-aligned terrorists. 

The representative of CamSur’s 2nd district at the same time filed a House resolution strongly urging the President to “come up with a comprehensive Bicol rehabilitation program, in response to the heavy devastation by super typhoon Rolly,” to include the provision of “immediate relief, recovery, and reconstruction for rebuilding a better Bicol,” in the aftermath of what has been dubbed the world’s strongest typhoon in 2020.

In the House resolution, Villafuerte said the typhoon made its weekend landfall in Bicol, toppling the transmission lines of 10 electric cooperatives resulting in province-wide power outages; displacing 390,000 of some 1 million evacuees; and damaging billions of pesos worth of standing crops and infrastructure in hundreds of thousands of farmlands across the region.

In CamSur, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has passed Resolution No. 235 declaring a state of calamity for the province, to enable the provincial government to use available public funds for relief and other forms of assistance to typhoon-battered families.

Parts of the province were placed under “Signal No. 5” category at the height of the latest typhoon.

‘A considerable amount of time and effort is needed from the national government to get the devastated provinces back on their feet soon enough following the magnitude of destruction wrought by two of the most powerful storms to hit the country,” Villafuerte said. “Hence, the need for the national government to set up a special task force to oversee the major rehabilitation work.”

He said this special body could be akin to Task Force Bangon Marawi, which Malacañang created three years ago to work on the rehabilitation of Marawi City in Lanao del Sur, in the wake of its five-month siege by an alliance of Islamic State (IS)-aligned terrorists. 

The legislator, who was once CamSur governor, appealed to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to set aside funds for flood control projects for disaster-prone areas in Bicol, as had been committed by President Duterte himself in the past.

Villafuerte recalled for the DBM that during a situation briefing in the capital town of Pili following the year-ago super typhoon Usman, President Duterte bared his plan to abolish the graft-ridden Road Board and put its multibillion-peso funds to better use, particularly for flood-control projects in Bicol.

The President announced this plan after Villafuerte suggested at the briefing that a viable solution to chronic flooding is the dredging and desilting of the Bicol River.

Villafuerte’s province is the region’s lowest-lying area making it a catch basin for floodwaters from other Bicol provinces whenever typhoons strike the region. 

“The national government could carry out the rehabilitation of the typhoon-battered provinces along with the dredging and desilting of the Bicol River in the remaining two years of the Duterte presidency,” Villafuerte said.

CamSur is one of the Bicol provinces that bore the brunt of the two weekend super typhoons whose toll on human lives, homes, business establishments, agricultural crops, and infrastructure still have to be fully accounted for at this time. 

In a letter to President Duterte, Gov. Villafuerte asked for assistance in the form of funding from the DSWD and other available resources for their proposed cash aid of P3,000 to P5,000 for each of the 80,000 severely affected families.

Typhoon Rolly alone is considered to be the strongest to hit the Philippines, hitting CamSur last weekend with maximum winds of 225 kilometers per hour (kph) and gustiness of up to 310 kph,

According to the preliminary damage report released by Luzena Bermeo of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) secretariat, super typhoon Rolly affected 251,000 families, 24,458 farmers and 34,350 fisherfolk in the province’s 1,036 barangays; destroyed P752 million-worth of crops and P13.3 million-worth of municipal and inland fisheries stocks; and damaged P1.9 billion-worth of infrastructure like roads, bridges, dams, irrigation systems, school buildings, and government facilities.

Earlier, Villafuerte and Gov. Migz Villafuerte led CamSur officials in appealing for immediate relief and assistance from President Duterte for at least 80,000 families in the province’s 35 municipalities and one city (Iriga) hit the hardest by super typhoon Rolly.

“We are appealing for immediate assistance from the President on the heels of the devastation wrought by super typhoon Rolly, particularly for the most severely affected 80,000 families all over the province’s 1,036 barangays, many of whom have lost their homes totally or partially to this extremely potent ‘Category 5’ cyclone that hit Bicol a week after the onslaught of super typhoon Quinta,” Rep. Villafuerte said.

“We need aid right away from the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and the NHA (National Housing Authority) for CamSur folk who are now reeling from the triple whammy of super typhoons Rolly and Quinta and the lingering coronavirus pandemic,” Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte, who has been in the province since last week to monitor developments and help oversee relief efforts, said the province’s palay growers have also been severely affected as they were about to harvest their crops in the weeks ahead before the super typhoon struck last weekend.

In a letter to President Duterte, Gov. Villafuerte asked for assistance in the form of funding from the DSWD and other available resources for their proposed cash aid of P3,000 to P5,000 for each of the 80,000 severely affected families.

“We likewise seek the assistance of the NHA through its Emergency Housing Assistance Program (EHAP) for many of our people whose homes have been totally or partially destroyed,” said the governor in his letter to the President.

“The province of CamSur has always been supportive of our national government efforts including that of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the country. It is the only province in the entire Bicol Region with an isolation center and is continuing to provide free testing to targeted individuals,” he said.

The biggest damage from the week-ago super typhoon Quinta was also reported in CamSur, with an estimated 4,400 hectares (ha) of standing palay crops destroyed and valued at P225 million.

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