MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte yesterday ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to look into the mining and logging activities in Cagayan Valley, after various parts of the region were inundated by floods spawned by Typhoon Ulysses.
During a briefing on the impact of Ulysses in Cagayan, Duterte said mining causes holes that can loosen the soil, which in turn may place some residents at risk.
“It props up every now and then. I will direct here General Cimatu to look into the illegal mining, especially where the people are building their shelters downwards,” Duterte said, referring to DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu.
“If… the possibility is not there for them to stop, at least General Cimatu should devise a way where they can place their houses well above the rolling stones if they come,” he added.
Duterte vowed to boost forest protection efforts against illegal logging and mining to prevent a repeat of the disaster.
Cimatu said they issued a cease-and-desist order on illegal small-scale mining operations following the massive flooding in Cagayan Valley, and said that 10 of the casualties in the region were reported at illegal mining sites.
In a separate meeting with Cabinet members and local officials in Camarines Sur, Duterte expressed support for the Bicol River Basin development proposal, which local officials said would help prevent floods.
“Avoid committees. Look for the guy that is really competent and knows his business and he will put his heart to it. If I say finish it, finish it. Frankly, I can get that kind of response from the military. One word is enough,” the President said.
State of calamity
A state of calamity was declared in Tuguegarao City following three weeks of widespread flooding wrought by six successive typhoons and tail-end rains yesterday.
The City Council Resolution 252-08 said that Tuguegarao was “90 percent inundated displacing large number of residents, causing damage to livelihood, livestock and properties, disruption of public facilities and utilities” brought by torrential rains of typhoons Pepito, Quinta, Rolly, Siony, Tonyo and Ulysses.
Widespread flooding and landslides unleashed by Ulysses left 22 dead in Cagayan Valley, according to latest reports bared by the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD).
The drowning of a one-year-old baby and an 80-year-old man in Barangay Cabiroan, Gonzaga and Brgy. Linao during the height of floods respectively last Friday were the new incidents confirmed by the OCD.
Also last Friday evening, Kelly Villarao, a rescuer from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources was electrocuted with three companions when their boat hit an electric post in Linao.
Villarao died on the scene while his companions were rushed to hospital.
Ten landslide fatalities were reported in Quezon, Nueva Vizcaya and two confirmed deaths from drowning in Benito Soliven and Angadanan town in Isabela.
The provinces of Cagayan and Isabela also declared their own state of calamity last Saturday.
At least 5,000 residents from 12 submerged barangays were displaced, a report from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office said.
With floodwaters still high, the Philippine Coast Guard-North Eastern Luzon District (PCG-NEL) yesterday morning recovered two bodies in Alcala, Cagayan.
PCG spokesperson Commodore Armand Balilo said the two fatalities were a 49-year-old male and a 45-year-old female.
It was only last Saturday when Coast Guard rescue teams reached Alcala. They first coordinated with the local government for a “systematic” method of rescue operations.
In Ilocos Norte, Coast Guard personnel yesterday extended help to an 83-year-old dialysis patient and safely transported her from her flooded house in Barangay Apusing Daga to Barangay Abbeg, Alcala, Cagayan.
They also rendered assistance to a stroke patient who they carefully brought to the nearest evacuation center.
As of 5 p.m. of Nov. 14, the PCG NEL reported that during their widespread rescue operations, they have extended assistance to more or less 400 residents in Cagayan and Isabela.
As of 1:45 p.m. of Saturday, the PCG has sent augmentation teams to Cagayan and Isabela provinces consisting of 120 personnel, including the Deployable Response Teams (DRGs), a medical team consisting of one doctor and three nurses, two K9 units, and logistics support and security teams.
Over P11 million worth of drugs and other medical supplies were deployed to Cagayan Valley and other typhoon-affected regions, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
Aside from P10.29 million worth of logistics and commodities, DOH reported that additional P1.15 million worth of medical supplies were sent to to Cagayan Valley where government-run health facilities are is still on Code Red as of yesterday.
DOH said two composite teams and one assessment team were also mobilized to evacuation centers in Tuguegarao.
According to DOH, some P254,312 worth of medicines were sent to Mimaropa while over 1,600 tablets of doxycycline were distributed to Aurora and Nueva Ecija.
Power to return
Electricity in the Cagayan region is targeted to be restored in two days after inspection is done in the area, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said.
Cusi made this assurance when asked by Duterte when electricity will be restored.
“As soon as the water subsides and we finish inspection, within two days,” he said.
The energy secretary said in the area serviced by the Cagayan I Electric Cooperative Inc. (CAGELCO I), 27 barangays already have energy, including some in Tuguegarao City.
“CAGELCO II is awaiting activation by NGCP (National Grid Corp. of the Philippines) transmission. They already received power but are considering safety of the people because of the flood,” he added.
River dredging to push through
Meanwhile, Duterte gave the go-signal to start the controversial dredging of the Cagayan river to avert widespread flooding in the future.
The continuing dredging activities in northern Luzon’s longest river was endorsed by Cimatu in a Cabinet meeting during the presidential inspection on the extent of damages incurred in the province following the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses.
Duterte earlier in the meeting said the release of water in Magat Dam should not be blamed for the inundation of 24 towns and Tuguegarao City, including five municipalities and Ilagan City in northern Isabela.
Cimatu said the Japanese JICA agency recommended the dredging of the “bottleneck” portion of the river in Lal-lo that was seen as the “culprit” for holding the rush of water back to the land mass and causing flood.
With the President’s approval, Cimatu said Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba can now resume dredging the river at no cost to the government.
He said the provincial government can impose excise tax on the dredging activities since the contractor will make use of the sand they extract from the project.
The river dredging was sought by Mamba as the solution for the perennial flood problem. –Raymund Catindig, Evelyn Macairan, Mayen Jaymalin, Catherine Talavera, Romina Cabrera