By Ben Rosario
Former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the creation of a Committee on Disaster Preparedness as the House of Representatives moved to act on the creation of a Department of Disaster Management sought by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Arroyo called officials of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and other agencies to a meeting on Monday to assess the situation in areas worst hit by the series of typhoons that triggered floods.
The newly-installed House leader has vowed to prioritize needed assistance to nine congressional districts that have been suffered the most.
“In as much as the President is prioritizing the disaster management bill and usually there is a mirror committee in the House for all the departments being created, I have asked my colleagues in the majority, including these two ladies if they would agree to organize a new committee for disaster management,” Speaker Arroyo said at the start of the meeting.
She also said she will constitute the Reps. present during the meeting as members of the new Committee on Disaster Management. They were Reps. Geraldine Roman (1st District, Bataan), Jose Enrique Garcia III (2nd District, Bataan), Cheryl Deloso-Montalla (2nd District, Zambales), Leopoldo Bataoil (2nd District, Pangasinan), Estrellita Suansing (1st District Nueva Ecija), and Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado (1st District, Bulacan).
Also present during the meeting were officials from the Departments of Social Welfare and Development, Public Works and Highways and Health, National Housing Authority, National Food Authority and the Office of the Civil Defense
During the meeting, which Speaker Arroyo called for the NDRRMC to give them updates and interventions regarding the previous typhoons that hit the country, she shared that she has identified ten districts that were gravely affected. Among which were from the provinces of Pampanga, Bataan, Zambales, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, and Bulacan.
She said the meeting will help the House come up with a comprehensive plan to help the ten most affected districts.
Defense Undersecretary and NDRRMC Executive Director Ricardo Jalad briefed the lawmakers on the severe effects of typhoons Henry, Inday, and Josie which hit the country this year. He cited there were about 454,000 families affected by the typhoons.
Jalad also said 13 individuals died, one person went missing, while two individuals were reported injured.
Meanwhile, damages on infrastructure and agriculture reached P3.6-billion, according to him.
After the briefing, Reps. Roman, Garcia III, Deloso-Montalla, Bataoil, Suansing and Sy-Alvarado as well as Governors Lilia Pineda of Pampanga and Albert Garcia of Bataan were given the opportunity to present the particular issues being encountered by their own provinces.
Roman talked about their problems with infrastructure. She appealed to the DPWH to look into the roads and drainage systems to lessen the extreme flooding in Bataan.
“Most of the problems [encountered] could have been prevented if there was a more adequate and proper design of infrastructure that had been carried out,” Roman said.
Deloso-Montalla urged the panel to attend to the necessities of fisherfolks and farmers affected by the successive storms. She appealed to the Department of Agriculture (DA) to provide assistance to those who suffered from the flooded rice fields. Moreover, Deloso-Montalla urged the DPWH to ensure that all roads will be passable in their province.
In Nueva Ecija, Suansing said about P500-million worth of crops were damaged due to the flooding. In putting up flood control systems, Suansing said concerned agencies should always consider neighboring provinces that may be affected.
Sy-Alvarado requested the DPWH to look into the Manila North Road, as this has caused difficulties on the vehicles using the road, especially trucks and commuters.
Bataoil said there were around 167 barangays affected in Pangasinan. He talked about the importance of providing an immediate response for the victims of the calamities.