NORTHERN CEBU IN A STATE OF CALAMITY
Nine towns and one city in northern Cebu were placed under a state of calamity after Tropical Storm “Urduja” left some of their areas submerged in floodwater, damaged crops and infrastructures, left hundreds of tourists stranded, and prompted thousands of families to evacuate.
During their regular session yesterday afternoon, members of the Provincial Board (PB) approved the resolution sponsored by PB Member Celestino Martinez III to declare the towns of Madridejos, Santa Fe, Bantayan, San Remigio, Daanbantayan, Medellin, Borbon, Tabogon, Sogod and Bogo City under a state of calamity.
Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, who sits as the board’s presiding chairperson, said the resolution, which was drafted just hours before the PB convened yesterday, was an urgent matter.
“There’s no need nga atong langayon (to delay action on the resolution) because this is an emergency,” said Magpale.
Earlier yesterday, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) led by Baltazar Tribunalo Jr. recommended placing northern Cebu under a state of calamity to enable the provincial government to use its calamity funds to assist the flood victims.
Tribunalo said they conducted a rapid damage assessment on the affected areas in Cebu last Saturday as basis for their recommendation.
Also, sellers of basic necessities and prime commodities such as rice are not allowed to increase their price in areas placed under a state of calamity, even if the demand is high and supply is scarce.
Tribunalo added they were still coordinating with the affected LGUs, the Provincial Tourism Office (PTO), Provincial Agricultural Office, and the Provincial Veterinary Office to determine the damage to crops, properties and infrastructure wrought by Urduja in Cebu.
Dr. Roldan Saragena, provincial agriculturist, said they began deploying their teams in Danao City and Sogod yesterday to assess crop damage in the area.
“We’re still figuring out how wide the damage caused by Urduja in terms of hectares. But initial information we got from the PDRRMO, the strong winds and incessant rains have greatly damaged root crops such as corn, peanuts and sweet potato (kamote), and also bananas,” said Saragena.
He urged affected farmers who availed of insurance from the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation to start processing documents so they could avail of financial aid.
PDRRMO has reported that 4,207 families from northern Cebu were evacuated due to overflowing of creeks and rivers, floods, and threats of storm surges along the coasts.
The bulk of the evacuated residents were from Daanbantayan, totaling 4,126 families (over 20,000 individuals) from 15 of the town’s 20 barangays; followed by 20 families from Medellin, 51 families from Tabogon, 10 families from Sogod, and 12 from Madridejos.
The PTO, meanwhile, recorded 151 tourists stranded on Malapascua Island, 42 in mainland Daanbantayan and 85 in Santa Fe town on Bantayan Island over the weekend.
Power outages were also reported in all areas placed under a state of calamity, as well as in the towns of Pilar and Tudela, both on Camotes Island.
So far, damages on infrastructures caused by Urduja were reported on a national road at Sitio Anapog in Barangay Tinubdan of Daanbantayan town, and a provincial road in Barangay Labangon in Tabogon.
Help for Biliran
But the island province of Biliran in Eastern Visayas received Urduja’s worst blow, leaving at least 31 dead and more than 23 missing in their area. This prompted their local governments, through the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV), to ask for help from Cebu.
Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III said that the Capitol would provide any assistance to the victims in Biliran but added that they needed to prioritize those affected in northern Cebu.
“We would like to help Biliran pero sa pagkakaron, atong atimanon sa ang mga kalungsuran sa norte. Daghan-daghan pud ni sila (but as of now, we will attend first to our LGUs in the north. They’re quite a lot),” said Davide.
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said they could not also send assistance to Biliran since the city government has ran out of funds to assist other LGUs.
He also believed that the assistance for the island province should come from the national government.
“We’re already out of funds at the end of the year. Water is a very expensive thing to ship because it’s heavy and the consumption of one person is not just one half bottle,” the mayor said.
“Water is very important but let the national (government) do that; they have all the resources for that,” he added.
The mayor was apparently referring to a plea from OPAV for Cebuanos to help Biliran residents by sending them bottled water as potable water has become scarce in the typhoon-ravaged island province.
Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CCDRRMO) chief Nagiel Bañacia yesterday affirmed that the city was already close to exhausting its P350-million disaster fund for this year.
Osmeña, on the other hand, added that there was also little the city government could do for Biliran residents buried by a landslide.
“The nature of the damage is done, they’re buried you cannot undo that. By sending them assistance that doesn’t mean you’re going to dig them out of the landslide,” the mayor told the reporters.
However, help did come from Toledo City-based Carmen Copper, which sent a 10-man special rescue team yesterday to Barangay Lucsoon in Naval town of Biliran to provide additional manpower on the search and retrieval operation of 27 individuals reportedly trapped under eroded soil, uprooted trees and boulders, the OPAV said on its Facebook page.
“(The search and rescue operation) will be facilitated by OPAV, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-7) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-7) of Central Visayas.” the OPAV said.
Meanwhile, the weather disturbance that was projected to enter the country on Christmas week has weakened into a low pressure area (LPA), according to Al Quiblat, chief of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa)–Mactan.
Quiblat, however, stressed that the public should continue to be vigilant and keep on monitoring weather updates as the weather disturbance could “reorganize” and develop into a tropical depression again.
“There are projections that it will reorganize. If that happens, it will enter PAR on Wednesday,” he said in Cebuano.
The LPA will be named Vinta once it enters PAR. As of 5 p.m. yesterday, it was spotted 1,500 km east of Mindanao, with a strength of less than 30 kilometers per hour.
Quiblat added that Cebu will experience fair weather in the next four days, with occasional rain showers in the evening.
“Atong forecast is partly cloudy with isolated rainshowers sa pipila ka mga lugar (to some areas) due to thunderstorm,” he said.
Urduja, meanwhile, was last seen 115 km northwest of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, and was expected to exit PAR on Wednesday and head for China, he added. /With reports from CORRESPONDENTS JESSA MAE O. SOTTO AND DORIS MAE C. MONDRAGON, USC iNTERN THERESE MAE ALEGADO AND INQUIRER.NET
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