By Connie Calipay
LEGAZPI CITY --- President Rodrigo Duterte handed over a P25M check to Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara as he arrived here Monday afternoon to personally assess ongoing disaster operations amid Mayon Volcano’s eruption that has so far sent 82,000 people to various evacuation shelters in six towns and three cities of Albay province.
President Duterte arrived Monday on board the presidential plane around 3:00 p.m. and went straight to Camp Gen. Simeon Ola for a meeting with Gov. Bichara, Philippine National Police-Region 5 Director Chief Supt. Antonio Gardiola, Major General Jesus Mananquil, Office of Civil Defense Regional Director Claudio Yucot, mayors of different towns and cities including Noel Rosal of Legazpi City and heads and officials of national government agencies.
He said that the amount can be used by the provincial government of Albay for the food, sanitation and health needs of the evacuees who abandoned their homes due to Mayon’s eruption.
Of the amount given last Monday, P5M came from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and the rest are presidential funds.
Duterte was briefed by Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Undersecretary Renato Solidum, Jr., director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), on the current situation of Mayon Volcano which, for the past two weeks, has been exhibiting intense restiveness.
Bichara, who is also Albay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council chair, also briefed the President on the disaster relief operations in more than 70 evacuation shelters in the towns of Malilipot, Bacacay, Sto. Domingo, Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, and the cities of Tabaco, Ligao, and Legazpi.
Right after the briefing, Presidential Political Adviser Francis Tolentino, who was born and raised in Albay, sat down with the governor and nine mayors of Albay, together with officials of the different national agencies directly involved in disaster management, to discuss and find solutions to problems raised during the briefing.
These concerns included food and sanitation at the temporary shelters which are already overcrowded and the livelihood of the evacuees, most of whom are farmers who have stopped tending to their fields due to the dangers posed by the Mayon’s eruptive activities.
The President gave the assurance that all these problems raised by the local chief executives of the affected six municipalities and three cities would be addressed.
“We will solve all the problems next week. Before the end of next week, tapos na iyan (it will be resolved),” he said.
Tolentino was assigned by the President to coordinate with all the national government agencies on efforts to alleviate the plight of the evacuees.
“I want it done... so Saturday tapos na iyan,” Duterte told the presidential adviser.
The President also assured that another P50M will be given to the provincial government of Albay as additional aid for the Mayon evacuees.
Moreover, some national agencies have pledged to give additional support. Department of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, who also came here, said DA is ready to give P100M from its Quick Response Fund.
Department of Education Assistant Regional Director Tolentino Aquino, on the other hand, assured P13M for the Temporary Learning Shelters of some 48,000 Mayon-affected students.
Meanwhile, Department of Labor and Employment Assistant Regional Director Rovelinda Dela Rosa said the agency is providing a budget of P30M for their “Cash for Work” Emergency Employment Program for the workers and farmers displaced by the Mayon eruption.
President Duterte left Legazpi at around 6:00 p.m. of the same day.