COMFORT FOOD President Rodrigo Duterte, assisted by Sen. Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong’ Go, hands over a relief pack to one of the victims of Typhoon ‘Odette’ in San Jose, Dinagat Islands on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021. MALACAÑANG PHOTO
THE Philippines will draw this week $80 million (P4 billion) from the World Bank’s $500-million standby credit facility to fund disaster relief and rehabilitation efforts in the provinces hit by Typhoon “Odette.”
In a statement on Thursday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd said the government will draw another $120 million from the standby facility in the first week of January, when the loan cover is incorporated in the 2022 national budget.
The loan was approved by the World Bank board on November 17, and the agreement for it was signed between the World Bank and the Philippines, represented by the Department of Finance (DoF), on November 29.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara earlier urged the government to identify undisbursed funds and savings in the state coffers that could be tapped for relief and reconstruction operations.
A presidential declaration of a state of calamity or a public health emergency is required to trigger the release of the World Bank funds.
Last Tuesday, Duterte declared a state of calamity in six Odette-battered areas: Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan); Western, Central and Eastern Visayas; Northern Mindanao; and Caraga Administrative Region.
Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Officer in Charge Tina Canda said on Thursday the Office of the Executive Secretary has instructed P1 billion released to local government units in the affected regions and charged against the contingent fund.
The President has promised to start releasing the funds either today, December 24, or Monday, December 27.
Visiting Siargao Island, which was ravaged by Odette on Wednesday, he told local officials: “Help is on the way; just wait for a while.”
The President, who was accompanied by Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, led the distribution of relief goods to the typhoon victims. They conducted a similar activity at the Cuarinta barangay hall in the Dinagat Islands later in the day.
Go said it was sad that Odette struck at a time when the country was slowly overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic.
But he said the spirit of compassion and cooperation remains strong among the people.
In Siargao, Duterte and Go met an ailing boy whose family was among the typhoon victims. The two brought the boy to Davao City so he could receive medical treatment.
Duterte also ordered the Office of the Executive Secretary to release P4 billion for typhoon-affected LGUs by Thursday or Friday. Each distressed family is entitled to P5,000 in financial assistance.
The President had made aerial inspections of other devastated areas in the Visayas and Mindanao last weekend.
The death toll from Odette has gone up to 258, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said on Thursday.
Mark Timbal, NDRRMC spokesman, said only 11 fatalities have been confirmed.
Bohol had the highest number of deaths at 96. Negros Oriental had 66 deaths; Cebu, 8; Agusan del Sur and Misamis Oriental, 4 each; Guimaras, 2; and Butuan City, Guimaras, Bukidnon, Misamis Occidental, Negros Occidental and Iloilo, one each.
The agency said 568 people were injured, the biggest coming from Cebu with 374.
There were 47 people missing.
On Thursday, the House Committee on Transportation has scheduled a hearing to assess the damage from the typhoon.
Invited to the hearing were representatives from the Department of Transportation (DoTr), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), Cebu Ports Authority, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and Office of Civil Defense (OCD).
The committee also wants to find out what improvements have been made in the wake of the devastation from Super Typhoon “Yolanda” in 2013.
“We’re trying to size up what’s going to be the result tomorrow, once all the position papers are presented to us, then we decide on what to do,” the committee chairman, Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento, said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), through its Civil-Military Coordination Center (CMCC), assured Thursday it would help deliver relief aid from over 17 donors for Odette victims.
The CMCC is a facility in the General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City that is activated during crises and emergencies.
ANNA LEAH E. GONZALES, KRISTINA MARALIT, JAVIER JOE ISMAEL, CHRISTIAN CROW MAGHANOY AND MOISES CRUZ