Four Philippine regions placed under calamity state

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Wednesday placed four Philippine regions under a state of calamity after Typhoon Nalgae (Paeng) caused severe floods, killing more than a hundred people.

Covered by the six-month state of calamity under Proclamation 84 are Calabarzon, Bicol, Western Visayas and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, where more than 1.4 million people were affected by the typhoon.

Under a state of calamity, local governments and the private sector could hasten rescue, recovery, relief and rehabilitation efforts and quickly appropriate funds. A ceiling on prices of basic goods is also imposed to prevent hoarding and overpricing.

“All government departments, agencies and instrumentalities concerned are hereby directed to continue implementing and executing rescue, recovery, relief and rehabilitation measures in accordance with pertinent operational plans and directives,” according to a copy of the order.

The death toll from the typhoon has hit 120, while 103 people were hurt, according to the local disaster agency. Thirty-six people were still missing.

It said the typhoon had affected 3.18 million people from 927,822 families in 73 provinces.   

Typhoon Nalgae, which left the Philippines on Monday afternoon, affected 11,294 houses, 2,104 of which were totally destroyed. The cost of housing damage was estimated at P12.76 million.

Mr. Marcos also ordered agencies to coordinate with local governments to help augment basic services in affected areas.

“Law enforcement agencies, with support from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, are directed to undertake all necessary measures to ensure peace and order in affected areas,” he added.

The Philippines lies along the typhoon belt in the Pacific and experiences about 20 storms each year. It also lies in the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes strike.

Filipino scientists have been urging the government to increase the state weather bureau’s 2023 budget, citing increased threats from changing climate patterns.   

The bureau’s P1.3-billion budget this year is lower than its P1.6-billion allocation last year.

Meanwhile, the Senate will allot a P30-billion calamity fund for next year to let the government adequately respond to disasters, Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” E. Angara told reporters in a Viber message.

“The calamity fund budget is roughly P30 billion which is larger than in past years,” said the lawmaker, who heads the Senate finance committee. “Given the increased frequency and magnitude of recent typhoons, this is appropriate.”

The Senate committee is open to changes to help improve state response to these calamities, he added.

Agricultural damage caused by Nalgae was estimated at P49.54 million, according to the Agriculture department. The country’s 16th storm this year has affected more than 700 farmers and thousands of farm areas.

Mr. Angara plans to file the committee report for the 2023 proposed budget and sponsor it in plenary on Tuesday.

Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri earlier said the Senate was on schedule to pass the budget bill, as it directs budget debates toward economic recovery, with funds focused on revenue generation and programs to tame inflation.   

He ruled out a reenacted budget, noting that there are few government offices whose budgets were yet to be heard.

The Senate plans to finish budget plenary debates in two weeks. “Maximum fourth week approval on second or third reading. Best effort, first week of December. Bicameral approval, the latest in the second week,” he said.

Mr. Zubiri said he does not expect major roadblocks in the passage of the P5.268-trillion budget because it is almost identical to this year’s budget.

“The difference is small, so the important thing here is that we fund the agencies that we think deserve to be given funds to improve the provision of assistance to our countrymen,” he said.

Next year’s budget is only 4.9% higher than this year and is equivalent to 22.2% of economic output.

The House of Representatives passed its version of the bill in September after President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. certified the measure as urgent, allowing its approval on second and third reading on the same day. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan