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‘Queenie’ aftermath: Weekend stalls response

By: Victor Anthony V. Silva November 30,2014 - 10:24 AM

Disasters know no holiday, but some officials apparently blame the weekend for the slow response to storm-affected areas in southern Cebu.

The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) in the provincial capitol compound was also closed for the weekend yesterday.

As of yesterday, six of nine towns badly hit by tropical depression Queenie have yet to be placed under a state of calamity.

The morning after the storm passed through Cebu last Friday only the towns of Dalaguete, Malabuyoc and Samboan were given calamity status by their respective legislative councils while the towns of Alegria, Argao, Badian, Santander, Oslob, and Boljoon which were identified by the PDRRMO as among those badly hit have yet been declared as such.

Argao Mayor Edsel Galeos said they weren’t able to make the declaration because they were pressed for time.

“It’s a weekend, you see. Our assessment of the damage is still ongoing and we still have to convene the disaster team before a report is made to the Sangguniang Bayan,” he told Cebu Daily News.
Baltazar Tribunalo, the chief of the PDRRMO, said most of the affected towns are still assessing the situation.

“Lisod if ato silang kara-karahon (It would be difficult for them if we badger them to finish their report),” he said.

Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III on Friday said he expects the Provincial Board to officially declare the southern portion of the province under a state of calamity when it convenes for its regular session on Monday. The provincial government still has P77 million in its calamity fund account.

Declaring a town or city under a state of calamity would authorize the local chief executive to use their calamity fund, 30 percent of which is intended for the Quick Response Fund while 70 percent is for disaster mitigation.

Galeos said that in the meantime, they are using other sources to fund the immediate expenses for gasoline, food, and relief goods.

He said he could not give an estimate of their initial expenses for relief and rescue, but these will be reimbursed once the calamity funds are released.

“We will make the declaration on Monday. By then, I think everything will be fast-tracked,” he said.

In Argao, the mayor said the storm damaged a number of dikes, at least three footbridges, and some houses. He said that their major concern at the moment is to how to source funds for the repair of the dikes, which, according to Galeos, most likely would cost more than P500 million.

He said they are also considering diverting the direction of the flow of the Argao River to save the riverbanks from getting flattened due to surface run-off.

As of yesterday, clearing operations in the town continue, especially in the coastal areas.

Even without access to the town’s calamity funds yet, Galeos said that they are managing things well.

Meanwhile, potable water supply remains to be a major problem, although still manageable, in the town of Dalaguete.

The provincial government earlier committed to sending fire trucks and water tankers to areas where water supply was affected after pipes connected to the source were washed away by flood.

“While waiting for the water from the province, we are using our artesian wells. We can manage,” said Dalaguete Mayor Ronald Allan Cesante.

He said the town’s engineering office is focusing on making all roads passable to both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

Clearing operations are still ongoing in four major roads leading to Argao, Alcoy, Alegria, and Badian.

So far, the mayor said only the north-bound road to Badian is passable.

Cesante said that assessment of the storm’s total damage is still ongoing.

The mayor further ordered the barangays to submit reports on damaged roads.

At present, 11 families still remain in an evacuation center in Sitio Suba, barangay Poblacion, and will be assessed for relocation in the next few days.

Cesante said that since they declared the town under a state of calamity last Friday, they have enough money, around P4.5 million, to spend.

However, he said they need more heavy equipment like backhoe and dump trucks to use in clearing operations.

Smaller details

While disaster response by the affected towns was “quick,” PDRRMO chief Tribunalo said the affected local government units could have done better. He said he saw that there was lack in monitoring, information dissemination, and enforcement among towns that were hit by tropical depression Queenie.

Tribunalo said that the LGUs should have paid more attention to the smaller details like the possibility of strong winds, or heavy rains.

“If they had listened, they wouldn’t need a Baltazar Tribunalo, or even a Governor Davide,” he said.

He said that he saw a lack of training for disaster response at the barangay level.

Tribunalo added that the barangays could have been more strict and authoritative in enforcing evacuation orders.

In Malabuyoc where the lone casualty for the province was recorded, the victim got caught by surging water after she remained in her house despite an order for all residents to move out the night before the storm hit.

Tribunalo raised the need to activate the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils (MDRRMC) to avoid pointing fingers when things go wrong.


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TAGS: Argao, Cebu, Dalaguete, Malabuyoc, PDRRMO, Queenie, Samboan

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