Regional Updates (11/15/20)

By air and water

PHILIPPINE security forces have had their hands full on emergency preparations and response operations in the past weeks as several strong typhoons have affected various regions in the northern part of the country. On Nov. 15, in the aftermath of Typhoon Ulysses (international name: Vamco) that swept through Luzon last week, members of the Philippine Air Force’s  505th Search and Rescue Group carried out medical evacuation for patients from the town of Alcala to the provincial capitol of Cagayan. The three patients were injured due to the massive flooding in their areas. Meanwhile, Philippine Coast Guard officers load drinking water and other relief goods on the BRP Malapascua vessel bound for Catanduanes, the island province that was one of the hardest hit by the series of recent typhoons.

Environmental management gets attention as top officials visit flooded Cagayan

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte, along with several members of his Cabinet, visited flood-stricken Cagayan on Sunday and called for better environmental management efforts to avoid another devastation. Local officials pointed at illegal logging and mining activities as the main culprit of the disaster. Cagayan Governor Manuel N. Mamba said the flooding was “the worst flood we had in 45 years” and it could get worse if no action is undertaken. Mr. Mamba has been pushing for the creation of the Cagayan River Basin Development Authority for a more integrated and comprehensive management of the entire ecosystem relating to the river. Office of Civil Defense Region 2 Director  Harold Cabreros reported during the meeting with the President that “almost 100,000 (households were) affected with 343,000 persons and there were roads and bridges that were considered not passable.” Mr. Cabreros also reported 24 casualties in the region while losses in agriculture and infrastructure were initially estimated at P73.7 million and P39.8 million, respectively. Mr. Duterte acknowledged that more needs to be done to avoid a repeat of such disasters. “We always talk about illegal logging and mining but nothing has been done about it,” he said. Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo, who belongs to the opposition party, also visited Cagayan on Sunday and brought relief goods to communities still submerged in flood. “We arrived in Cagayan this morning. Our team arrived a few hours earlier with supplies. Situation is so much better. Many areas still flooded but water receded already,” Ms. Robredo said in a Twitter post. — Gillian M. Cortez and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

Case on police chief’s lockdown violation not yet dropped — Guevarra

THE prosecution will continue with its probe on the quarantine violation of police chief Debold M. Sinas despite President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s pronouncement that he would grant pardon if he was found liable, according to Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra. “Whatever it was that the President said about his intent to pardon General Sinas, the DOJ (Department of Justice) will do what it is duty-bound to do, and the president may also do what he is constitutionally authorized to do,” Mr. Guevarra told reporters via Viber on Sunday. Mr. Duterte on Saturday said that he would pardon the head of the Philippine National Police, who was appointed to the post last week, if he is found liable for violating quarantine protocols when he held a birthday celebration in May. At that time and prior to his promotion to his current position, Mr. Sinas was head of the Metro Manila police. Mr. Guevarra said the prosecution has “to complete the process of preliminary investigation” against Mr. Sinas along with 18 others. The Justice chief also noted that executive clemency may only be given after an accused is found guilty of a crime. “‘If he has fault’ indicates that  the President will wait for a finding of fault or guilt after a proper proceeding, whether administrative or criminal,” the secretary said. “The President is very much aware that a case is still pending and he is merely indicating his intent to act with liberality, in consideration of General Sinas’ overall performance as a career police officer,” he added. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Tuguegarao mayor could face charges for neglect of duty amid flooding

THE Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Tuguegarao Mayor Jefferson P. Soriano could face charges for not being on the ground when the city, the capital of Cagayan province, was flooded due to the release of water from Magat Dam. In an interview with DZBB on Sunday, Interior Undersecretary Jonathan E. Malaya said the mayor will be given due process before administrative charges are filed. “It’s possible the Tuguegarao mayor will be charged if he is found to be neglectful here,” he said in Filipino. On Saturday, the DILG said it will issue a show cause order to the mayor to explain why he left his area of responsibility to spend his birthday in Batangas while his constituents were already suffering from Typhoon Ulysses (international name: Vamco), which struck Luzon last week. Batangas is more than 590 kilometers from Tuguegarao.

The National Irrigation Administration (NIA), through its Magat River Integrated Irrigation System office, said it issued an advisory on the possible water release from the reservoir as early as November 9, two days before Typhoon Ulysses made its first landfall. “Prior to Typhoon Ulysses, five typhoons had affected Isabela and Cagayan Valley and almost the entire Luzon, causing continuous rain for almost two months. During this period, two gates opened or an equivalent of four meters were opened to reduce water containment at the Magat Reservoir,” NIA said in a statement on Sunday. “The continuous rains upstream of Magat Dam contributed to high inflows, while rivers along the Cagayan River had also reached its maximum capacity, causing river overflows, not only to the Cagayan River but its adjacent areas,” the agency explained. — Gillian M. Cortez 

Cebu, Davao cities revert to strict lockdown rules this week

THE CITY governments of Cebu and Davao, two of the main urban centers outside Metro Manila, are bringing back strict lockdown rules this week to either avoid or mitigate another coronavirus outbreak. Cebu City Mayor Edgardo C. Labella, in a post on his Facebook page late Saturday night, said border restrictions will be reimplemented starting Monday, Nov. 16. This means that non-essential travel to and from the city will again be prohibited. Those who will be allowed to either enter or leave the city will be limited to those listed under the national government’s list of so-called Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APOR). The quarantine pass issued per household, which limits movement on specified days and only for food and medicine purchases, will also be reactivated. Cebu City was placed under the strictest quarantine level in July after it recorded the highest number of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases outside the capital, putting its entire healthcare system far beyond capacity. Mr. Labella, in his post in Cebuano, said he is issuing an executive order to lay out the reactivated rules, which is intended to avoid putting the city again under such a situation. As of Nov. 14, Cebu had 262 active cases out of the total 10,438 recorded, based on data from the Health department’s regional office. Of the active cases, 59 were new, one of the highest in recent weeks. Mr. Labella wrote in Cebuano, “I would like to inform the Cebuanos starting 5:01 a.m. on Monday, November 16, 2020, we will tighten border control across the city so that we can prevent the recurrence of the COVID-19 cases here in the city.”

In Davao, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio issued an executive order Friday designating the city as a “restricted local government unit,” and laying out similar strict rules as in Cebu. The order comes after the recent reimposition of curfew hours from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. and the liquor ban. Starting Nov. 18, entry to and from the city will be restricted to APORs, while those bound for the airport or will access medical facilities and services will have to present corresponding documentary requirements. The city’s active COVID-19 cases increased 83% to 987 patients as of October 31 from 539 on Oct. 15. The surge has continued in the first two weeks of Nov., with active cases at 1,762 as of the 14th. The city has so far recorded 5,114 cases, with 3,142 recoveries and 216 deaths. — MSJ

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