ILAGAN CITY — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Tuesday, September 18, arrived in the province of Isabela to assess the damages caused by Typhoon ‘Ompong.’ However, instead of counting losses, the President lauded Isabela for achieving zero casualty after the typhoon.
“Well, I’d like to thank you for sharing this time with me. Not really a part of my itinerary. Kasi alam ko na na wala naman masyadong pinsala dito,” he told the members of his Cabinet as well as the local officials.
“As a matter of fact, the zero casualty was a most welcome news to me. Buhay talaga ang una. Pumunta ako dito to congratulate the officials, the governor, vice governor, and everybody who were at the forefront, ready to face the onslaught. And I admire the preparation,” the President said.
According to President Duterte, looking at the Philippines’ geography, we are vulnerable to typhoons because we are located near the Western Pacific.
Consequently, such hazard is inevitable and will always be part of the Filipinos’ lives. Therefore, as a nation, we should still be ready for it, and impart to the next generation the importance of disaster preparedness.
“We can never avoid the typhoons and storms that would come our way. I don’t know why God placed us here, but the fact is that typhoons and storms will be a part of our lives forever. That must be…pasok sa utak ng mga anak natin that they somehow have to improve on everything, whether infrastructure, build stronger bridges, more resilient shelters and everything,” the President said.
The Chief Executive then reinforced his desire to build gym-type evacuation centers that could accommodate massive numbers of evacuees where comfort rooms for men and women are segregated.
By doing so, the typhoon-prone areas in the country will never have to rely heavily on public schools every time they are hit by a calamity.
“Ang gusto ko sanang mangyari — before I end my term, it’s going to be an urgent…immediate talaga na meron tayong mapaglagyan. I don’t know how it would be distributed — because we cannot place one [in] every city and province. That will be too expensive,” he said.
“So ang tingin ko, every other five municipalities may isa, wherever it is, so that it can be put to good use during a typhoon unless it is really a massive one covering the whole area. That’s a different story,” he added.
The President explained that the government must concentrate on building such calamity-resilient facilities to at least alleviate social predicaments in the areas of education and health.
Concerning disaster preparedness and response, President Duterte pointed out that both national and local governments should improve the prepositioning of their assets to have an efficient relief operation for the post-disaster event.
“So kung saan ‘yung expected area, the other personnel of the other provinces, they would go there. And doon, in every city or province dapat may stock na ng prepositioned food,” the President suggested.
At the same time, he discouraged the public from giving donations to media organizations, saying they must instead hand over their assistance to organizations such as the Philippine Red Cross or the government and the military.
Isabela, compared to other provinces in the Cagayan Valley, suffered less damage after Typhoon ‘Ompong.’ The zero casualty feat of Isabela after the typhoon reflects its commitment to achieve effective disaster preparedness, mitigation, and response.
According to Isabela Governor Faustino Dy III, for three consecutive years, they were recognized as the Most Outstanding Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council.
However, in spite of the zero casualty, typhoon ‘Ompong’ gravely damaged the province’s agricultural sector.
Based on the assessment report of Governor Dy to the President, out of 141,000 hectares of farmlands, 2,866 hectares were fully damaged, while 82,000 hectares were partially devastated.
Also, 104,000 hectares of cornfield were damaged. Isabela is known as the number one producer of corn in the country.
More than 200,000 farmers in the province were affected by the typhoon. ###PND