Friday, December 23, 2011

Philippine president to declare State of National Calamity

"I will sign the State of Calamity or National State of Calamity to deploy the mechanisms that will allow us to access extra funding," Aquino said during his official visit in this southern Philippine city Tuesday.

Aquino said the Asian Development Bank will extend a 3 million U.S. dollar grant while World Bank can extend 500 million U.S. dollars worth of loans to help the Philippines recover from the damages inflicted by the storm. He also thanked Japan, the United States, Australia, Russia and China for offering to help the typhoon victims.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that as of Tuesday afternoon, the death toll from the typhoon stands at 957. Heavy downpour caused flooding and landslides that killed nearly 1,000 residents and displaced hundreds of families.

Most of the casualties were in the worst-hit cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.

NDRRMC Executive Director Benito Ramos said he expects the figure to climb to 1,000 as many people remain missing.

Of the 957 fatalities, Ramos said 579 are from Cagayan de Oro City while 279 others were from Iligan City. The rest were from Negros Oriental, 38; Cebu, 1; Zamboanga del Norte, 3; Bukinon, 47; Compostela Valley, 5; Surigao del Sur, 1 and Lanao del Sur, 4.

Ramos said search, rescue and retrieval forces have recovered more than 200 bodies in a span of less than 24 hours. This is because bodies of people who drowned are now floating.

Ramos said there is no timeline set for the retrieval operations, adding the operations may extend to as far as Camiguin and Siargao islands because those drowned may have been swept by the current there.

The president, for his part, said his primary concern at the moment is to locate those who have been missing since Washi battered the country Saturday.

"Let us exhaust all possible means to try and find all of these missing individuals," Aquino said.

Aquino added he has created a task force that would seek to prevent the recurrence of the tragedy that has claimed over a thousand lives, and to determine who may be at fault.

The task force includes representatives from the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Justice, Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, and the Mindanao Development Authority.

"We are going to fine-tune all of the systems in place so that we can prevent similar tragedy from happening," he said.

Aquino said that the government was prepared for such calamity. But he noted the large number of casualties was due in part to the continued presence of residents in known danger zones, and deforestation caused by illegal logging.

The president said he expects the newly-appointed Officer-in- Charge (OIC) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Mujiv Mataman to carry out the total log ban on natural forests in his region, where illegal logging remains rampant.

"I have directed the OIC to investigate reports that the logging ban has not been implemented in the ARMM," he said.