A SENATOR on Sunday urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to seek help from the international community for victims of Typhoon Vamco, which killed at least 67 people and submerged many parts of Luzon island last week.
The Senate would ask the agency on Monday to activate the Philippine International Assistance Cluster and explore the option of seeking foreign aid, Senator Ma. Lourdes Nancy S. Binay told DWIZ radio.
“We still have some fellow men on top of their houses in Isabela so there should be a sense of urgency,” she said in Filipino.
The government cluster coordinates incoming and outgoing international humanitarian assistance. It may call for foreign help if the local disaster agency recommends it to President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
Typhoon Vamco, locally named Ulysses pummeled Luzon last week, killing at least 67, hurting 21 others and leaving millions without electricity. At least a dozen people were still missing, according to the local disaster agency.
The typhoon made landfall in Quezon province and crossed Central Luzon, affecting Metro Manila, Cagayan Valley, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol and the Cordillera Administrative Region.
The Philippines, one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, is hit by about 20 typhoons yearly. It’s located on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire — a major area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.
Ms. Binay appealed to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. to seek foreign aid for rescue equipment, personnel and air assets for disaster response and rescue missions.
Vamco caused P70.79 million worth of damage on power equipment, according to the National Electrification Administration (NEA). About 88 areas in Luzon still did not have electricity, it added.
Meanwhile, Senators Juan Edgardo M. Angara ang Sherwin T. Gatchalian in separate statements said they have given aid to the Bicol region.
Mr. Angara’s office conducted relief operations in Bato and Virac in Catanduanes as well as in several towns in Albay and Camariñes Sur. Mr. Gatchalian gave P6 million of financial aid to the three provinces.
The Bicol region was still recovering from the onslaught of Super Typhoon Goni, locally named Rolly, which hit the country on Nov. 1. Typhoon Goni made landfall twice in the region, first in Catanduanes and then in Albay, killing at least 19 people.
Meanwhile, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has provided P10 billion more to the pooled calamity funds of government agencies to help them with rescue and relief operations after flooding in Cagayan Valley, Marikina City and Rizal.
“We just augmented the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Fund by another P10 billion in view of the continuing needs and for as long as it is imperative and necessary,” Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado said in a mobile phone message on Saturday.
The disaster agency has a P16-billion budget this year.
Mr. Avisado said the fund is meant for all kinds of disasters and natural calamities, including relief operations in flooded areas of Luzon.
Parts of Cagayan and Isabela have been submerged in floodwater since Friday due to the rising water level of Cagayan River caused by the heavy rainfall from Typhoon Vamco and the continued release of water from Magat Dam.
Rising flood waters forced some families to sleep on the roofs of their houses while waiting for rescue.
This followed massive flooding in Metro Manila, especially in Marikina City and Rizal province last week where muddy flood waters reached the roofs of single-story houses.
Vamco was the third typhoon and fifth tropical cyclone to hit the Philippines in less than three weeks. The typhoon drew comparisons to Typhoon Ketsana, locally named Ondoy, which submerged eastern parts of the capital region in 2009.
Four previous typhoons that entered the country this quarter have caused P38 billion in damage, based on official estimates as of Nov. 10.
The government’s calamity fund is a lump sum amount under its annual budget to cover response, relief and rehabilitation operations of state agencies in areas struck by calamities.
Meanwhile, the Social Security System (SSS) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) will lend to victims of the three typhoons.
SSS will offer calamity loans from Nov. 27 to Feb 26, it said in a statement on Sunday. It will also offer loans for housing repairs and tap its three-month advance pensions. The state agency said it had not released the rules for the program.
GSIS will also allow members to borrow P20,000 at a yearly interest rate of 6%, to be paid for three years.
Borrowers must be in active service and are not facing administrative or criminal charges.
Old-age and disability pensioners with a net monthly take-home pension after loan availment of at least 25% of their basic monthly pension can also apply for the emergency loan.
Meanwhile, members with due loans or those with arrears of more than six months can renew their emergency loan from a different calamity, except the one under the COVID-19 emergency loan program.
Members with only three months of paid premiums may also apply. — Charmaine A. Tadalan, Beatrice M. Laforga and Kathryn Kristina T. Jose