Access to aid in quake-hit Itbayat, Batanes remains a challenge – Robredo

Robie de Guzman   •   July 31, 2019   •   792

MANILA, Philippines – The deployment of relief goods to parts of Itbayat town in Batanes remains a challenge four days since two successive earthquakes jolted the area, Vice President Leni Robredo said on Wednesday.

Robredo made the observation after visiting the town earlier in the day to personally see the damages left by the temblor and to distribute relief packs to earthquake victims.

“Iyong pagkain, challenge. Iyong construction materials, challenge, dahil sa layo ng lugar. Mayroong mga barko na pumupunta, pero it takes a while bago makarating,” she said.

“Gaya noong dala namin, three days pa siya bago makarating. Halimbawa, iyong PAL (Philippine Airlines) nag-o-offer na makapagpadala sa kanila for free, pero hanggang Basco lang iyon, so kailangan pa din i-transport iyong mga goods. So ano talaga, mahirap. Kahit urgent, hindi talaga mamadali, dahil sa hirap ng pagpunta,” she added.

Robredo also noted that the steel bars, to be used for the rebuilding of damaged structures, are the most difficult to transport since these are too heavy for boats.

“Siguro iyong Navy ship iyong kailangan,” she said.

“Malawak iyong destruction. Iyong pinuntahan natin na barangay, iyong Santa Maria, tapos iyong dinaanan, San Rafael, sobrang dami ng bahay na nasira,” she added.

The vice president also stressed the need for the urgent building of shelters for affected residents.

“Siguro iyong first na pinaka-urgent, na may matulugan na sila na mas maayos. Mayroon naman tayong mga dala na gamit, pero mas pang-temporary siya. Siguro sa lalong madaling panahon, iyong pinaka-mahalaga, maka-build na ng temporary shelters,” she said.

Due to the damages sustained in Itbayat town, Robredo suggested for the local government unit to strengthen the prepositioning of relief goods and implement protocols for quick disaster response.

“Dapat mayroon na sanang, parang, protocols. Na kapag may nangyayari dito, paano iyong pagdala ng tulong. Kasi naaalala ko, in 2016, noong Typhoon Ferdie, nandito din ako, eh. Nandito din ako sa Itbayat, same problem. Iyong pinaka-problema talaga, kahit may sasakyan, mahaba talaga iyong travel time, eh. So siguro iyong kailangang i-consider din, magkaroon na ng… parang naka-store na provisions (of aid) lalo na sa pagkain,” she said.

“Iyong isa pa, talagang ang health services dito, iyong mga hospital, kailangan talagang paglaanan ng maraming tulong, para kapag may ganito, dahil malayo iyong mga dadalhan, dapat equipped noong mga kailangan,” she added.

The entire province of Batanes is listed in the UNESCO tentative list for inscription in the World Heritage list due to the intangible heritage elements of the Ivatan people, including their stone houses.

But Robredo said that following the quake, there is now a need to ‘tweak’ the design of stone houses in Batanes to withstand strong earthquakes.

Batanes residents are much prepared for tropical cyclones as the province, which sits in the northernmost part of the country, is usually in the path of storms entering the Philippines.

“Iyong sa akin, baka kailangan balikan na in preserving the stone houses, tingnan na kung paano niya mawi-withstand iyong ganito. Siguro kailangang i-tweak iyong design, iyong engineering design. Wala kasi siyang mga kabilya, eh. Talagang mga bato lahat,” Robredo said.

“Tama iyong sabi ni Gov, na for a very long time, ang pinaghahandaan kasi nila bagyo. Ngayon lang nag-strike itong ganitong katinding lindol, saka lang nila naisip na may problema pala iyong… parang iyong original design ng mga bahay dito,” she added.

The Vice President said they visited earthquake victims to extend assistance through its Angat Buhay initiative which partners with private companies in providing aid to communities in need.

They also donated an electrocardiogram (ECG) machine for the local hospital.

Malacañang reminds charity groups to coordinate with LGUs for relief ops after Jinggoy’s arrest

Marje Pelayo   •   May 5, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has reiterated its call on humanitarian groups to coordinate first with local government units (LGUs) before conducting relief operations especially when the government is implementing strict protocols in relation to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. 

The reminder comes after the arrest of former Senator Jinggoy Estrada for allegedly violating the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) when he distributed goods to the people of San Juan City.

Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque stressed President Rodrigo Duterte’s plea to set aside politics while the country is battling COVID-19.

“Nakikiusap po kami doon sa mga nais magkawanggawa na makipag-coordinate po tayo sa LGUs dahil doon sa pagbibigay ng ayuda sa ating mga kababayan, kinakailangan pong magkaroon ng safeguards nang hindi po magkumpol-kumpulan at dagsain kayo ng taumbayan [We ask humanitarian missions to coordinate with the LGUs because there must be safeguards in relief operations to make sure that people will not crowd the relief distribution],” Roque stressed.

Kinakailangang magkaroon ng hakbang upang masigurado ang social distancing habang namimigay ng ayuda [There must be protocols to make sure that social distancing is observed during relief distribution],” he added.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) explained that the former senator did not coordinate with San Juan City LGU in his relief operations which led to his arrest. 

According to DILG Secretary Eduardo Año, Estrada and his team are not even considered authorized persons outside of residence.

Nakita ko sa video may mga pagsuway sa physical distancing [I saw in the video that there were violations of social distancing protocols],” the official said.

Pati ang mga seniors at saka minors ay lumabas din ng bahay. Another pagsaway na naman iyon [Even seniors and minors went out of their houses. That’s another violation],” he added.

Though they understand the former lawmaker’s intention to help, Año said that does not exempt him from following strict ECQ guidelines. 

“Kung kaaway naman niya ang LGU, pwede naman ang OCD [If he’s in conflict with the LGU, he can go straight to the (Office of the Civil Defense)],” Secretary Año said.

Ibigay mo ang gusto mong ipamigay doon, and let OCD do its job dahil may mga ahensya naman sa ilalim niyan [You distribute goods there and let the OCD do its job as there are agencies under it that can assist you],” he added.

But Estrada maintained he did not violate any law but instead, local politics had a hand in his arrest. 

“Why are they singling me out? Just because I am an Estrada? Bawal na ba kaming tumulong dito sa [Are we banned from helping the people of] San Juan?” Estrada said. 

“Noon pa lang sinasabi niya na huwag tutulungan ang mga rolling store namin [Even back then he discouraged others from helping our rolling stores] So, you expect me to get a fair shake? I don’t think so,” he added.

However, Mayor Francis Zamora denied the allegation reiterating that Estrada violated the ECQ protocols.

Zamora noted that he even granted a one-day permit to the former senator’s daughter, former San Juan Vice Mayor Janella Estrada when she requested a permit for their rolling drugstore.

Zamora maintained that the arrest of Estrada had nothing to do with politics but with law and order especially amid the coronavirus pandemic wherein strict measures must be observed. 

The Estrada clan is the archrival of the Zamoras in San Juan City.

Estrada was later released from the San Juan Police Station. MNP (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

DILG tightens policy for relief operations by private donors

Marje Pelayo   •   April 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Humanitarian groups will not be able to mobilize relief operations unless they secure a certification from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), according to its new policy.

This is after reports that several private donors were using relief operations as excuse to slip past government checkpoints.

According to DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, authorities at checkpoints had some relief donors arrested for hanging banners with messages ‘Do Not Delay’ or ‘Relief Operation’ just to escape police inspection.

Malaya also stressed that the food pass issued by the Department of Agriculture (DA) is not allowed for other purposes such as relief operations. 

Niliwanag na po ito ng Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Dar na hindi po pwedeng gamitin ang food pass para sa relief operations, (DA Secretary Dar has clarified that food passes should not be used for relief operations),” he said.

“Ang mga food pass po ay para lamang sa movement ng farm products from the farm to the market, (Food passes can only be used for movement of farm products from the farm to the market),” he added.

To address the matter, the DILG has imposed additional policy of requiring organizations or individuals to get a certification from the local government unit (LGU) of the site for relief distribution before they move to action.

For example po, kung gusto niyo po magsagawa ng relief operation sa Taguig ay kailangan pong humingi ng certification mula sa city hall o kaya naman ay kay Mayor Cayetano,” Malaya explained.

(If you want to do relief operation in Taguig, for example, you need to get certification from the city hall or from Mayor [Lino] Cayetano.)

Ito po ang ipapakita ninyo sa mga kapulisan sa mga checkpoints. Kapag meron po kayo nito, papadaanin po kayo sa checkpoints, hindi na kayo mahihirapan,” he added.

(You will need to present the certification to the police at checkpoints. Once you have it, you will be allowed to go through easily.)

The new policy is expected to minimize, if not stop, abuse against persons in authority and to ensure that health protocols such as strict social distancing measures are observed.

The directive will also hasten checkpoint screenings and will help authorities easily identify if the relief operation is legitimate and not a ploy. MNP (with inputs from Vincent Arboleda)

OVP purchases P14-M worth of COVID-19 test kits developed by UP scientists

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 24, 2020

The office of Vice President (OVP) Leni Robredo has purchased P14 million worth of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test kits developed by the scientists from the University of the Philippines (UP).

In a statement, the OVP said the test kits will be delivered to hospitals certified as laboratories for COVID-19 testing. These include San Lazaro Hospital, Lung Center of the Philippines, V. Luna Hospital, and Bicol Regional Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory.

The testing kits will help in conducting a total of 10,000 tests.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) previously said the UP-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) and Philippine Genome Center aim to increase test kit production as well as increase COVID-19 testing capacity per day.

“With the deployment of the test kits, UP-NIH will increase its capacity to run more tests per day, as each unit of the GENAMPLIFY™ COVID-19 test kit can run 25 tests at once and provide results within two hours,” the DOST said in the statement.

Deputy Executive Director of the Philippine Genome Center Dr. Raul Destura said there is 8,000 to 10,000 tests produced daily and they aim to increase it by 16,000 tests per day by May 1. AAC (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)

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