By Marlon Purificacion | Journal Online
Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. yesterday urged the government to provide immediate assistance to farmers and fishermen in areas devastated by typhoon “Lando.”
“The raging flood waters and strong winds of typhoon Lando caused severe damage to crops, fishponds, and livestock in several provinces. The people in these areas need help from the government as soon as possible so they can start rebuilding their lives,” Marcos said.
The senator said assistance for the agriculture sector should be among the government’s top priority to ensure not only adequate supply of food for the country but also to prevent sharp increases in the price of food materials.
For her part, Senator Grace Poe called on the government to pick up the right lessons from the rehabilitation efforts after Super Typhoon Yolanda and embark on a swifter, more deliberate yet prudent recovery plan for the victims of Typhoon Lando in Northern and Central Luzon.
“We definitely don’t want a repeat of the slow process that we saw in the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts for those affected by Yolanda, many of whom have yet to fully recover from that traumatic incident,” said Poe, an independent presidential candidate in the 2016 elections.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano called for a real change in emergency response as he stressed the need for the creation of a separate department.
“We need to make real change to make sure the government is ready when disaster strikes,” said Cayetano.
With the country in the midst of a highly charged political campaign, Poe also asked incumbent officials “not to lose sight of the victims and the need for rehabilitation of areas where typhoon Lando did the most damage.”
“The people deserve no less than our full attention in this time of crisis, no matter the consequence that we might lose some ground in our election bids,” said the leading presidential candidate based on various pre-election surveys.
The latest report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) estimates typhoon Lando’s damage to be about P5.9 billion.
“The government can tap billions of unspent calamity funds to help victims of Typhoon Lando but the lengthy process and extensive documentation required for its release means it can’t be used to bring immediate relief for the typhoon victims,” Marcos said.
“But in the meantime the Department of Agriculture can use the P500 million Quick Response Fund in its budget for the purpose,” he added.
Lando was the first Category 4 typhoon to hit the country since Yolanda wrought havoc in the early days of November 2013. Yolanda, with international name Haiyan, barreled through the Visayas in what was said to be the strongest typhoon in world history and left more than 6,300 people dead while displacing more than 11 million.
“The lessons are there, the experience is there and even the machinery is there for the recovery efforts for yet another colossal crisis, which is typhoon Lando,” Poe stressed.
And while Lando was less powerful than Yolanda, Poe noted that “there seems nothing to differentiate the two in terms of anguish it brings to people, its widespread destruction and the immediate response required.”
She likewise pointed out that much of the rehabilitation and recovery work for Northern and Central Luzon -- two major rice-producing regions in the country -- should be shouldered by the Department of Agriculture (DA) as vast tracks of farmlands were destroyed.
Worse, Poe averred that Lando came at a time when farmers were just about to harvest their crops. Worst hit were the flat lands of Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija and Pampanga, thousands of hectares of which were planted to rice.