President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Wednesday (June 14) flew to Albay to personally meet and provide assistance to the Mayon-affected residents who are now seeking temporary shelter in different evacuation centers in the province.

President Marcos was accompanied by Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rex Gatchalian in the inspection of the evacuation center located in the municipality of Guinobatan.

During his visit to the Guionabatan evacuation center, the President, assisted by Secretary Gatchalian, Gov. Grex Lagman and Mayor Paul Chino Garcia, distributed family food packs (FFPs), 6-Liter bottled water and non-food items to the evacuees.

Each box of FFPs contain six kilos of rice, nine canned goods, coffee and ready-to-eat oatmeal, with one food box costing between 700-750 pesos. The non-food items consists of hygiene kits.

In his speech, President Marcos happily informed the Mayon-affected residents of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government’s assistance to them consisting of more than 50,000 kilograms (50 metric tons) of food items such as rice, cooking oil, powdered milk, salt and sugar.

The President has personally thanked the UAE for its unwavering support for the Philippines and its timely assistance for the families affected by the unrest of Mayon Volcano.

“Thank you very much. I cannot go further without thanking the UAE for the very timely assistance that you provided the victims of the explosion of our volcano,” President Marcos told UAE Ambassador to the Philippines Mohamed Obaid Salem Alqataam Alzaabi, who paid a courtesy visit to him on Tuesday at the Malacañan Palace.

On Tuesday afternoon, the 50,000 kilograms of food items donated by the UAE government arrived in Albay province on board DSWD trucks and was immediately turned over by the DSWD Field Office V to the Albay provincial government for repacking and distribution.

The President flew directly from Koronadal, South Cotabato, where he led the distribution of various forms of government aid to local beneficiaries and witnessed the launching of the South Cotabato Consolidated Rice Production and Mechanization.

After the inspection of evacuation centers, the President and Secretary Gatchalian proceeded to the Albay Astrodome in Legaspi City where the chief executive was given a situation briefing on the actions taken and preparations being made by the Albay provincial government headed by Gov. Grex Lagman.

According to the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO), a total of 4,286 families, or 15,241 people, have been forcibly evacuated since the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) raised Alert Level 3 due to the heightened restiveness of Mayon.

The affected families are now staying in evacuation centers that include 14 public schools, 10 local government-owned evacuation centers, and other buildings converted into temporary shelters in the cities of Ligao and Tabaco, and the municipalities of Sto. Domingo, Malilipot, Guinobatan, Camalig and Daraga.

Secretary Gatchalian, who was in Albay last Saturday (June 10), also inspected several evacuation centers and met with local officials, assuring them of the continued delivery of family food packs (FFPs), with a total target of 102,000 boxes.

Besides the UAE-sponsored aid, Secretary Gatchalian said the DSWD has already deployed around 38,000 food packs to Albay across five three-day waves, servicing an estimated 8,000 families over 15 days.

Gatchalian explained that after the DSWD shouldered 15 days-worth of family food packs (FFPs), the Albay provincial government would take its turn feeding the affected families for six days. When this period ends on the 21st day, the DSWD will step in again to provide food packs for another 15 days.

“We want to complement each other’s resources rather than overlap each other’s resources,” the DSWD chief pointed out.

Secretary Gatchalian said that if the volcanic unrest in Albay protracts to 90 days, the DSWD will reconvene with concerned local government units (LGUs) to form an “arrangement as to who feeds on what days.”

The DSWD is also considering deploying financial assistance as the family food packs only include “typical” goods that may not meet the needs of nursing mothers, small children, and senior citizens.

Under President Marcos’ directive, the amounts of such monetary aid are currently being discussed by the DSWD and concerned LGUs, according to Secretary Gatchalian.

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