By Aaron Recuenco
BATANGAS CITY — Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas urged people on Thursday to refrain from politicizing the ongoing relief efforts for hundreds of thousands of families displaced by the Taal Volcano eruption.
“This is not the time for this. We are facing a big challenge because most of our fellow Batangueños lost their homes and lost their means of livelihood. The best that we can do is to set aside politics, unite, and work together to help them,” Mandanas said.
Mandanas made the appeal amid social media bashing of the ongoing assistance and rehabilitation plans for the eruption evacuees.
Mandanas was first criticized on social media for seeking assistance from China for relief and rehabilitation efforts in Batangas following the devastation wrought by the eruption on infrastructure, agriculture, and livestock.
Based on Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office data, hundreds of houses collapsed as a result of the thick ash layer covering roofs.
The Department of Agriculture recently put the estimated damage to agriculture at P3 billion, while more or less P100 million of damage was initially assessed on roads and bridges.
Mandanas said he sought the assistance of Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian through grants or soft loans to be used for housing and other development projects in Batangas.
“During his visit here, he asked me if we still need other forms of assistance. Why would I say no when clearly, we really need big funds for our rehabilitation efforts?” Mandanas said.
President Duterte’s long-time partner, Cielito ‘Honeylet’ Avancena, was also bashed on social media for distributing tikoy (sweet rice cake) to evacuees on Wednesday.
Officials of the Batangas Provincial Government said Avancena’s presence was important as she made clear in her speech that she would ask help from the spouses of Cabinet officials to generate funds for Batangas relief and rehabilitation efforts.
Vice President Leni Robredo was also attacked for supposedly giving only five pieces of pandesal and a bottle of water to Taal evacuees at one of her relief missions.
The latest attack on Mandanas was for his statement that an estimated P100 million is being spent every day for the food alone of the evacuees.
The estimate was based on the assessment that there were already one million evacuees —200,000 staying in evacuation centers and 800,000 staying elsewhere — based on reports of local government units and the population in areas within the 14-kilometer danger zone.
Some people reportedly misinterpreted Mandanas’s statement to mean that the Batangas Provincial Government is giving P100 for each evacuee everyday, and an additional P50 daily per evacuee for other basic needs such as personal hygiene items.
Mandanas clarified that they are not giving cash to the evacuees, and explained that the figure is an estimated cost if P100 is allocated for food per evacuee per day. Since the evacuees are estimated to number one million, the estimated daily expenses therefore amount to P100 million.