Sunday, January 19, 2020

Duterte set to visit evacuees in Batangas

President Duterte will visit evacuees in Batangas tomorrow to personally assess the situation in areas affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano, according to presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo.

“We only had a situation briefing,” he said, referring to Duterte’s visit last Tuesday at the Batangas Sports Complex in Batangas City.  “This time he will really go around so he can have a sense of the real situation and see if there is a need for additional measures.”

Duterte has ordered that Taal Volcano Island be declared a “no man’s land” since it is a permanent danger zone. 

The President has also expressed his intent to build permanent evacuation centers in the provinces near Taal Volcano so the local government units will have places to bring the affected populace during disasters. Panelo said there are enough funds to address the concerns of the affected residents.

Earlier this week, Panelo said Duterte is not asking help from the international community to address the initial impact of the eruption of the volcano.

“No. (Defense Secretary Delfin) Lorenzana said we can survive, we don’t need the help of other countries as of now,” Panelo said in Filipino at a briefing Tuesday. Panelo, however, said the government will be accepting humanitarian aid if given voluntarily.

“Of course we will accept, why will we refuse them?” he said.

Lorenzana, also the chairman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), had earlier declared that the present situation was not as dire as that wrought by previous calamities. He said the Philippines is open to any offer of aid but there aren’t as many deaths now compared to past disasters such as earthquakes.

During the briefing last Tuesday in Batangas, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado noted that the concerned agencies and even Batangas could tap their respective NDRMCC funds to be used for evacuation and relief operations.

“We are assured that the government has more than enough funds. I say more than enough because we are still beginning the 2020 national budget utilization,” Avisado said. Citing the 2020 General Appropriations Act, Avisado said the Department of Agriculture has P1.5 billion in funds to respond to disasters.

The Department of Education is allotted P2.1 billion while the Department of Health has P600 million. The Department of National Defense has about P250 million at its disposal, while the Department of Public Works and Highways has P1 billion; the Department of Social Welfare and Development, P1.25 billion and National Electrification Authority, P100 million. “Therefore we would like to assure the people that the government is doing its best and managing the funds necessary to respond to all these needs,” Avisado said.