INCESSANT RAINS, FLOODS, LANDSLIDE, HUNGER: Catanduanes SP asked: ‘Declare state of calamity!”
By Jason B. Neola VIRAC, Catanduanes --- More than 14,641 fisherfolk, palay farmers and abaca workers in this island province whose livelihood activities were greatly affected by incessant rains for 17 days now are in dire need of assistance to meet their daily needs. This, while the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) here refused to declare the entire province under a state of calamity. The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, chaired by Governor Joseph C. Cua, had earlier recommended to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to declare the entire island province under a state of calamity due to continuous rains brought by tropical depressions Urduja, Vinta and Agaton for more than two weeks now. Under National Disaster Coordinating Council Memo No.4 series of 1998 known as the Amended Policies, Procedures and Criteria for Declaration of a state of Calamity, upon the recommendation of Local Disaster Coordinating Council, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan must immediately convene and pass a resolution declaring the state of calamity. The PDRRMC recommendation was passed and approved by its members on Thursday, Dec. 28, during an emergency meeting. The NDCC Memorandum Order stated that when 20% of the population is affected and in need of assistance, a province can already be declared in state of calamity. Cua convened the PDRRMC to come up with the recommendation and to be able to convince the SP to place the province under the state of calamity and go on with the process of providing the affected and displaced residents with relief goods -- a plan that was not realized, however, when the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan headed by Vice Governor Shirley Abundo, who were then in regular session, refused to heed the PDRRMC endorsement. Cua said if only the PDRRMC recommendation had the chance to make its way to the Sanggunian and was accorded with appropriate action by the provincial board members, LGU Catanduanes could have augmented the relief goods and other forms of assistance that the people in the barangays may receive from their respective LGU-barangays. He said the aid that will be coming from the province is very important since there are barangays that failed to declare their areas under the state of calamity as there were barangay officials who were out of their own villages for the holiday season. With the declaration of state of calamity, the province can tap the calamity fund to provide assistance to those heavily affected areas. In an interview with Alex Parfan of Radyo Agila, the governor said that the continuous rains have sent flash floods, and landslide in several towns that also prevented fisherfolk to go fishing. “Nin huli kan sobra na sa duwang semanang pag-parauran, apektado na an pagbuhay kan samuyang mga kahimanwa orog na an mga parasira asin mga abaca workers. Kulang nang marhay an saidang pagkakan,” the governor said in a written announcement released by his office right after the provincial board failed to act on the PDRRMC recommendation. As conveyed by the PDRRMO headed by Mr. Jerry Beo, the Bicol Region is affected by three weather systems, the northeast wind or amihan, tail-end of a cold front, and easterlies in the part of Mindanao which take turns in bringing extensive and moderate to heavy rains in the entire region. Affected municipalities are Bagamanoc, San Miguel, Caramoran, and Viga with reported incident of landslides and severe flooding. Means of livelihood of the fisherfolk and abaca farmers from said towns are also affected. In San Miguel town, 10 barangays or at least 4,369 persons are isolated due to landslide and severe flooding and 4,547 abaca laborers/farmers and 911 fisherfolk are affected in Caramoran while 31 barangays or at least 1,815 abaca laborers/farmers, 1,423 fisherfolk and 1,576 rice farmers were affected in the municipality of Viga. Meanwhile, because of successive gale warnings, fisherfolk are prohibited from venturing into the seaboards. Areas prone to landslide and flood are being monitored by the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices to mitigate the effect of disaster and avoid having casualties. All LDRRMOs, barangay officials and other concerned are already alerted for any disaster occurrences. As of press time the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has not yet passed a resolution placing Catanduanes under a state of calamity.