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Go backs Luzon state of calamity declaration; seeks better disaster mitigation measures

Bong Go with Rodrigo Duterte
Sen. Bong Go with President Duterte

AFTER leading the distribution of immediate assistance to flood-hit families in Calumpit and Marilao, Bulacan on Tuesday, November 17, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go said during a media interview that he supports the recommendation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Luzon under a state of calamity.

“Yes, ako pabor po ako d’yan. Mas mapapabilis ang rehabilitation efforts ng mga LGUs kapag isinailalim sa state of calamity and inaprubahan na po ng Pangulo (‘yung increase sa calamity fund) ng mga probinsya na tinamaan ng bagyo. Magbibigay po ng 1% of their IRA sa mga LGUs na tinamaan ng bagyo para magamit nila sa relief and rehabilitation,” he explained.

In an emergency meeting held last November 16, the members of the NDRRMC approved the recommendation to declare a state of calamity in entire Luzon following the onslaught of typhoons Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses that displaced thousands and caused massive destruction.

If approved by the President, local government units will have more access to public funds to expedite relief and rehabilitation efforts in their respective areas.

Aware that calamity funds of LGUs are now depleted because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Go earlier appealed to the Executive department to replenish the calamity funds of affected LGUs with an amount equivalent to 1% of their respective Internal Revenue Allotment. The budget department is expediting the release of said augmentation funds following Go’s appeal and subsequent directive from the President.

Moreover, in an effort to further improve disaster mitigation measures of the government, Go also sought better coordination in various government levels in order to reduce damage following the massive flooding in Cagayan Valley.

The Senator said that the national government should remain in charge of managing dams, particularly during typhoons. He, however, appealed for better coordination with concerned LGUs to be more proactive, such as in ordering preemptive evacuation.

“Unang una, dapat po ‘yan sa national pero in coordination po with LGUs, lalong lalo na po sa mga desisyon na pagpapakawala ng tubig,” Go said.

“Sabi ng PAGASA ay 15% daw po ng dahilan ng pagbaha doon (sa Cagayan Valley) ay mula sa dam at 85% sa pagbuhos ng tubig sa bagyong dumaan,” he added.

Makati City Pabakuna

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu earlier said that the Cagayan River was already swollen caused by sustained and prolonged raining in Cagayan Valley as early as October when earlier storms hit the region. Cagayan River is only one of the eighteen tributaries that feed the catch basin in the region. Other sources of water come from the Cordilleras and Sierra Madre mountain ranges.

Strictly following its protocols, the National Irrigation Administration, the agency that manages the Magat River Integrated Irrigation System, was earlier reported that its team started opening the spill gates as early as November 9 in order to prevent overspilling that may unfortunately result to a more disastrous dam breakage. Different communication tools were also used to disseminate information on the schedule of dam’s water releases. These included the television, radio, print, social media, emails, SMS and sirens.

“Anyway, ‘wag na po tayo magsisihan para sa susunod na pagpapakawala ng tubig ay magiging well-coordinated ito with local government units,” he urged.

“Sila po ang nakakaalam kung saan po ang safe na mga evacuation centers na dapat na paglalagyan ng mga evacuees o mga mamamayan nila sa lugar nila. Coordination po ang importante po dito,” he added.

Given the destructive effects of the recent natural calamities, Go was asked if he is in favor of increasing the national security level of the country’s anti-disaster and environmental measures. The Senator responded, saying that the protection and preservation of ecological balance is already one of the major national security interests of the Duterte Administration.

“Ang National Security Policy 2017 to 2022 ay hindi lamang limitado sa mga traditional security issues, like military conflicts, armed rebellion, malaking bahagi rito ay ang well-being ng bawat Pilipino. Kaya dahil po sa climate change ngayon, ay naging stronger, more frequent and more destructive na po ang mga bagyo, ‘no?” Go said.

“Kasi nandito tayo, located tayo sa Pacific Ring of Fire. Galing sa Pacific Ocean ay dumadaan talaga sa Pilipinas (ang mga bagyo) kaya medyo delikado po ang ating kinatatayuan. Kita ninyo bago lang po, naglindol din sa Surigao, kahapon po. So, meron talagang climate change rin po, isa po ito sa priority natin,” he added.

Ending the interview, Go urged Filipinos to continue helping each other by exemplifying the bayanihan spirit so that the country can recover swiftly from the disasters.

“Sa mga kababayan ko, dalawang disaster po ang ating kinakaharap ngayon, ito pong COVID-19 pandemic, disaster po ‘yan. Itong bagyo na dumaan sa atin, disaster po ‘yan. Mag-ingat po tayo, magtulungan po tayo, magmalasakit po tayo sa kapwa natin Pilipino,” Go encouraged.