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Aquino declares state of national calamity

President Benigno Aquino III has declared a state of national calamity as the country continues to recover from the devastation wrought by tropical storm Sendong.

The President signed Tuesday (December 20) the National State of Calamity in the Palace following a trip to devastated areas. The President visited the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Dumaguete to personally oversee the conditions of the residents there and direct government response to the disaster that left hundreds of people dead while scores remain missing.

In his speech delivered at City Central School of Cagayan de Oro, the President said the declaration will pave the way for mechanisms that will allow us to access extra funding.

“Let me inform you that we can obtain three million dollars from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and if the funds we have set aside to respond to calamities end up insufficient, then the World Bank is ready to lend us 500 million dollars at low interest,” Aquino said.

“We have been overwhelmed with offers of assistance from Japan, America, Australia, Russia, China, along with other countries. For this, we are extremely grateful to the friends of the Philippines and of the Filipino people in the international community,” he added.

The President said there is no doubt that Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, and other areas affected by Sendong will recover. “The only question is how quickly it will happen. Right now, we are focused not only in providing immediate aid to victims of the typhoon. We must also be prepared for the typhoons we are certain will be visiting our country. We will further improve our systems, so that we can more clearly predict the amount and the force of incoming rainfall,” Aquino said.

“Since we came into office, we have been able to increase the number of Doppler radars by four units; three more will become operational in the coming year,” Aquino added.

The President said that apart from the P60 million pesos allotted to road repairs in Cagayan de Oro, there is also a P54 million fund to rehabilitate the city’s water system. In addition, P150 million has been allocated to the positioning of an estimated 1,000 automatic water-level sensors in 18 river basins throughout the Philippines.

“We have allotted P450 million for the construction of core shelters in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. We can be assured of an estimated 1,000 housing units from the NHA, as their initial assistance,” he said.

Thousands have been living in temporary shelters. Local Cagayan de Oro City officials raised their concerns with the President during a briefing held at the Philippine Air Force base in Lumbia airport. The chief executive assured them that there are enough government funds for relief assistance and rehabilitation to help ease the flight of the victims.

Aside from the fund that will come from the national government, the President said there are supports coming from foreign donors, some in the form of loans and others providing equipment and expertise.

After meeting officials in Cagayan de Oro, the President flew to Iligan City where he assessed the situation there. From Iligan City, the President went back to Cagayan de Oro and distributed assistance to the affected residents. By noon, the President departed for Dumaguete City to personally hand over relief goods to residents.