ONE MILLION PESOS has been donated by the Valenzuela city government to the province of Catanduanes for the super typhoon Rolly relief and rehabilitation efforts. Gov. Joseph Cua (3rd from left) received the check and copy of the Sangguniang Panglungsod resolution authorizing the donation from Vice Mayor Lorie Natividad-Borja (2nd from left) and City Councilor Rovie Feliciano (extreme left). Witnessing the turnover are Sen. Win Gatchalian and his brother Rep. Wes Gatchalian, and the city social welfare and development officer. The senator also donated slippers, face masks and face shields.
Two members of the Senate – Win Gatchalian and Migz Zubiri – both assured support for funding assistance for the super typhoon-hit province of Catanduanes during the bicameral committee deliberations on the 2021 national budget set this week.
In separate visits last weekend, the two solons expressed their commitment to Governor Joseph Cua and other provincial and local leaders to back any recommendation to increase the budget for the island province in view of the devastation inflicted by three successive typhoons in as many weeks.
It was Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri who arrived first on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, as part of his personal visit to ravaged provinces in the Bicol region to survey the damage and to extend assistance to victims through the donation of 700 sacks of rice bought from farmers within the region.
In Catanduanes, he turned over 150 sacks to the provincial government to distribute to local residents. He later headed to Sorsogon, where he gave another 150 sacks to Vice Gov. Manuel Fortes Jr., to Albay where he handed over 250 sacks to Gov. Al Francis Bichara, and to Camarines Sur where he turned over 250 sacks to Gov. Migz Villafuerte.
“We also made sure to source out rice donations from local farmers right here in the Bicol region, so that we’re able to help them as well,” Zubiri added. “Mahihirapang bumangon ang mga magsasaka natin, kaya talagang dapat matulungan natin sila, lalo na ngayon na bagsak ang presyo ng palay.”
In a press conference at the governor’s office, the Senate Majority Leader vowed to push for additional budgets for Catanduanes, particularly for the rehabilitation of the abaca industry which needs at most P200 million, flood control structures and repair of multi-purpose buildings.
“Hindi matatapos ang budget kung wala kayong budget sa abaca rehab,” he promised.
He said he will ask Sen. Gatchalian, as chair of the energy committee, and the Department of Energy (DOE) on how they can help find a long-term solution to making power lines climate-resilient.
Laying it underground like in Batanes would be ideal but it would be costly since water-proof steel pipes would be used, he added.
He likewise expressed support for Sen. Bong Go’s suggestion to provide an additional one percent (1%) of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) on top of the 5% Calamity Fund to local government units affected by calamities.
However, Zubiri noted, there could be a need to amend the Local Government Code.
On the need to create a Department of Disaster Resiliency (DDR), he said that there is an ongoing debate in the Senate if the country needs to have two new departments, the other being a department for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
He remarked that with the country experiencing calamities almost weekly, the present set-up under the Department of National Defense (DND) where the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) is headed by director-level official cannot cope with the situation.
There has to be a Cabinet-level official who can act as a one-stop shop, a go-to individual for LGUs in case of calamities, Zubiri stressed.
While he believes in downsizing the national government through the mergers of two departments like the DA absorbing DAR, he will nonetheless support the move for the creation of the DDR.
The senator, however, warned that that it would be very difficult to dismantle a department once it is created, as it would need P5 billion a year to maintain it.
On the coronavirus pandemic, the once COVID-stricken senator said Catanduanes is very lucky to have just four (4) remaining active cases as his base, Cagayan de Oro City, has 600 active cases.
But he expects the number to drastically rise nationwide due to overcrowding in typhoon-hit evacuation centers.
Gatchalian: Power needs to be restored soonest as sign of normalcy
Sen. Win Gatchalian expressed sadness over the devastation wrought by the super typhoon to the province and commiserated with its leaders and the people when he visited the island last Sunday morning, Nov. 15.
As chairman of the Senate energy and basic education committees, he assured the governor that he will focus on the rehabilitation of power facilities, as the restoration of electricity signals the return of normalcy. As for school buildings, he said that the damaged schools should be repaired soonest even if there are no actual classes now.
“Naniniwala po ako na by next year magkakaroon na tayo ng face-to-face classes,” Gatchalian stated, citing the speed with which a COVID-19 vaccine is being developed.
Not only is the classrooms here being used for classes but it is also utilized as evacuation centers during typhoons so it should be sturdy enough to withstand strong winds, he emphasized.
On how to restart the modular learning here, the senator said it is a big problem to have the modules lost during the typhoon along with the lack of wifi signals so he will talk with the Department of Education to have new modules printed as replacement.
On the other hand, the improvement of internet connectivity will take time, so the country will have to stick with self-study modules for the meantine, he added.
“Isa po sa mga mungkahi natin ay payagan na ho ung tinatawag na purok workshops,” Gatchalian bared, noting that in Catanduanes has only four active cases with many towns having none.
LGUs with zero cases and those considered low-risk areas should be allowed to have teachers going to puroks to teach their pupils but at a maximum of 10 and all with masks and maintaining health protocols, he disclosed.
This is now being done in many countries abroad and in the US they call it “learning pods,” he added. “So puede hong gawin yan sa mga lugar na zero COVID cases para hindi na mahirapan yung mga estudyante lalo na yung mga nawalan ng modules.”
On the need for typhoon-proof school buildings for areas in the typhoon belt, Gatchalian said the design of such schools which can withstand 250-kph winds should be brought here to Catanduanes along with the funds.
Regarding the nearly depleted Electric Cooperative Resiliency Fund (ECRF), he informed that he has talked with NEA Administrator Edgardo Masongsong regarding the possibility of securing funds from other agencies’ Quick Reaction Funds (QRF) for the rehabilitation of the island’s power facilities.
Congressman Wes Gatchalian thanked local officials for the warm welcome and said the delegation was here to share its blessings for the province’s 11 towns.
He said typhoon Ulysses also passed by his city but the damage was not that substantial unlike in Marikina City where many houses remain flooded.
On behalf of the city government, Vice Mayor Lorie Natividad-Borja remarked that this year has been a period of challenges with the pandemic and calamities but what is important is that we help each other overcome these hardships even if Valenzuela City is far away from Catanduanes.
The city government, with the assent of the Sangguniang Panglungsod, donated a total of P6 million for three calamity-stricken provinces in Bicol charged to its own 5% Calamity Funds.
Camarines Sur got the biggest share of P2.5 million, with P1 million going to the provincial government and P200,000 each allotted for the towns of Buhi, Bula, Calabanga, Libmanan, Nabua and Pili.
Albay got the second biggest at P2.2 million, with the province getting P2 million and Tabaco City allotted P300,00. The towns of Guinobatan and Daraga got P250,000 each while Camalig and Malinao received P200,000 each.
On the other hand, the provincial government of Catanduanes received P1 million while the capital town of Virac got P300,000, with Mayor Sinforoso Sarmiento Jr. and Vice Mayor Arlyn Arcilla receiving the assistance.
A member of the delegation told the Tribune that the practice of sending cash donations to calamity-stricken LGUs was started by Win Gatchalian when he was mayor and was continued by his predecessor.