| RP placed under state of calamity
| Saturday, October 3, 2009
|MANILA, Philippines - President Arroyo yesterday placed the entire nation in a state of calamity to allow the authorities as well as the public to prepare for super typhoon “Pepeng” and keep prices of basic commodities under control and maintain peace and order in the wake of the devastating floods earlier brought by tropical storm “Ondoy.”
Mrs. Arroyo made the declaration during the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) meeting at the Cainta municipal hall where she prodded officials to speed up the rehabilitation and repair efforts in areas destroyed by Ondoy.
The declaration of state of calamity will be in place as long as necessary, officials said. The President earlier ordered the forced evacuation of residents in areas that would be in the direct path of typhoon Pepeng.
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde pointed out that Pepeng would hit the nation still in shock over the floods caused by the rains brought by Ondoy that affected two million people and damaged nearly P5 billion worth of agricultural products and infrastructure.
“For the reasons that we can’t estimate the effects of typhoon Pepeng, which is expected to bring rains to many areas, and for the reasons that nobody would take advantage of prices, I’ve been authorized by the President to announce that the declaration of the state of calamity is being extended to the whole country,” Remonde told reporters after the meeting.
Remonde said the declaration would allow local government units (LGUs) to immediately access their respective calamity funds, which constitute five percent of their respective annual budgets, and allow authorities to strictly implement price controls over basic commodities and services.
Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila pushed for the declaration of the state of calamity following reports of overpricing of not only basic commodities but also of construction materials and automotive supplies and services.
“Whether we like it or not, there are those who take advantage of the situation and those in need. So this order (state of calamity) to give more impetus to our price control efforts,” Remonde said.
He said the LGUs could now tap their calamity funds to buy supplies and equipment that they can “pre-position” close to high-risk areas and allow them to respond more quickly to emergency situations.
Remonde reminded local officials to act swiftly in their preparations. “It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared,” he said.
He pointed out that under the NDCC setup, it is the regional, provincial, and municipal or city disaster coordinating councils that are supposed to be the first to respond to calamities.
“Let’s continue to pray that we won’t be affected (by Pepeng),” Remonde said.
He said this was the first time that a declaration of a nationwide state of calamity was made as a preemptive move. Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raul Gonzalez said such a preemptive move was legal.
Warrantless arrest for erring traders
Favila said authorities are prepared to enforce warrantless arrests on unscrupulous businessmen caught breaching the government-imposed price ceilings on basic goods.
Favila said aside from the basic commodities, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is set to release a new list of products covered by the price control to include construction materials, and if legal, lubricants and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
He said the National Bureau of Investigation has placed under DTI control some 100 field agents to monitor traders who are taking advantage of the calamity, including funeral parlors.
“You should not be ghoulish in your actions,” Remonde said.
Favila said the Philippine National Police has also alerted its personnel nationwide for unscrupulous traders.
Gonzalez said under a state of emergency, the Constitution allows the government to take over vital installations.
“But these are in cases of large-scale calamities,” Gonzalez said, adding that such moves are really on police powers “like forced evacuations.”
“That falls under the general welfare clause,” he said.
Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said P500 million has been placed on stand-by and another P6 billion will be allocated for the rehabilitation work for Ondoy and possibly for Pepeng.
During the NDCC meeting, Mrs. Arroyo scolded officials for the slow pace of rehabilitation efforts. At one point, she chided Bureau of Fire Protection officials for failing to account for the number of fire trucks deployed in calamity-hit areas to supply water and clean up debris.
After the meeting, she proceeded to the Tahanang Walang Hagdanan also in Cainta town to distribute relief goods.
Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. who is also NDCC chairman, said the police and military would forcibly evacuate residents living in disaster areas.
Teodoro ordered LGUs to ensure that all roads in their respective areas are not blocked for rescue teams to be able to move freely in an event the need arises.
These directives were part of an overall disaster preemptive plan mapped out by the NDCC if only to cushion the impact of typhoon Pepeng, which is scheduled to make a landfall today.
Teodoro said residents who would defy the evacuation order would be made responsible and accountable for their actions.
“If they refused to evacuate they should not expect from us to provide immediate help and assistance if disaster strikes them,” Teodoro said.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) ordered all governors, city and municipal mayors and barangay heads nationwide to mobilize their respective Local Disaster Coordinating Councils (LDCCs) to ensure that all necessary preparations have been made to cushion the impact of typhoon Pepeng.
Acting DILG Secretary Melchor Rosales urged all local officials to warn residents on the coming typhoon.
Rosales issued the directive in pursuant to the NDCC’s directive for a “zero casualty during calamities.”
“Local executives should take the lead in the formulation of preemptive evacuation measures and actions and designate evacuation centers in their respective localities complete with water supply, power, and health and sanitary facilities,” Rosales said.
The PNP said police units would conduct preemptive evacuations in areas in the path of typhoon Pepeng.
Chief Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome, chief of the PNP Police Community Relations Group, said police units in Luzon have also been placed under full alert.
“We are now coordinating with the various local government units for the conduct of preemptive evacuations, should it become necessary,” he said.
Bartolome said that should residents in identified danger areas refuse to leave their homes, responding policemen will bodily carry them off to the designated evacuation centers.
“We will encourage them to evacuate. But if they will refuse, we will bodily carry them. We have a mandate to protect them,” he said.
Bartolome said the PNP has more than sufficient manpower to carry out preemptive evacuations.
“We have sufficient people from the local police units and the regional mobile groups,” he said. “We will also be helping the local government units prepare the evacuation centers.”
Bartolome said PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa ordered all police regional directors in Luzon to identify the possible areas to be hit by Pepeng as well as the possible sites for evacuation.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical, Services Administration (Pagasa) yesterday warned provinces in northern Luzon to brace for Pepeng.
Pagasa said that based on their latest track projection, Pepeng would directly affect the provinces of Abra, Benguet, Quirino, Aurora, and La Union.
Other provinces in northern, central and southern Luzon including Metro Manila, will likely experience rains and gusts, Pagasa said.
Pagasa said that as of 10 a.m. yesterday, Pepeng was seen over 180 kilometers east northeast of Virac, Catanduanes packing maximum sustained winds of up to 195 kph near the center and gusts of up to 230 kms.
It is forecast to move west-northwest at 19 kph headed for northern Luzon.
Pagasa said that if Pepeng maintained its current speed and strength, signal number 4 would be raised in affected areas once the typhoon would make landfall today at noon.
Signal no. 1 has been raised over Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, Apayao, Kalinga, Cagayan, Babuyan Island, Mt. Province, Ifugao, Benguet, La Union, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal, Southern Quezon, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, and Burias Island.
Signal no. 2 has been raised over Catanduanes, Camarines Norte, Quezon, Aurora, Polillo Island and Isabela.
By Saturday morning, Pepeng is expected to be 60 kms east of Casiguran, Aurora and would later cross northern Luzon.
Pagasa said the typhoon is expected to be 400 kms west-northwest of Basco, Batanes by Sunday and would exit the country on Monday.
Chief Superintendent Perfecto Palad, director of the Calabarzon police, deployed 520 policemen and PNP trainees to help in the cleanup drive of areas badly hit by typhoon Ondoy in Rizal.
The police also distributed drinking water in evacuation centers in the towns of Cainta, Taytay, San Mateo and Rodriguez.
Vicente Tomazar, Office of Civil Defense IV-A regional director, said an emergency meeting was called to discuss planned actions and preparation for the coming super typhoon Pepeng.
He said all residents near the riverside and low area are advised to evacuate. All civil defense volunteers, local officials, volunteer doctors, hospitals, health and social workers are conducting dissemination information for preemptive measures.
Tomazar said 500 policemen, fire trucks, three dump trucks, and one rubber boat were dispatched for cleanup drive in San Mateo, Rodriguez, and Taytay, Rizal.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said people living in coastal barangays in northern Luzon that are in the path of Pepeng should evacuate.
(PCG) spokesman Lieutenant Commander Armand Balilo said people living in the affected coastal barangays should consider evacuating. - With Mike Frialde, Non Alquitran, Ed Amoroso, Evelyn Macairan, Jaime Laude - By Paolo Romero (Philstar News Service, www.philstar.com)
|posted by Moderator Londen time 1:17 PM