THE DEATH toll from typhoon Rolly (international name: Goni), the world’s strongest typhoon so far this year, has climbed to 24 while 26 others were injured and five remain missing, according to the latest report from the Philippine National Police.

Majority of the fatalities at 20 were from Bicol, the region hit hardest by the typhoon.

Three were from Calabarzon and one from Mimaropa.

The injured consists of 22 from Bicol and four in Calabarzon.

The police, among the frontline emergency responders, deployed

5,804 officers for search and rescue operations and another 1,556 in evacuation centers.

Typhoon Rolly exited the Philippine area on Tuesday, leaving a trail of over 402,000 families composed of 1.62 million people affected across six regions.

As of November 3, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that at least 106,642 families were still displaced.

In Bicol alone, nearly 80,000 homes were affected, including 20,942 that were totally destroyed and 58,696 partially damaged, according to the Office of Civil Defense’s regional office.

The cost of damage to roads, bridges, flood-control structures, and public buildings has reached over P5 billion, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) reported on Tuesday

Of the total P5.756 billion, the estimated cost of damage to roads is P1.52 billion, Public Works and Highway Secretary Mark A. Villar said in a statement.

He also cited the P458.2 million damage to bridges, P2.04 billion to flood-control structures, P367.25 million to public buildings, and P1.38-billion to other infrastructure.

“As expected, our assessment teams identified majority of the destruction in Bicol Region amounting to P4.621 billion,” Mr. Villar said.

The department said many roads in the island province of Catanduanes are still “impassable.”

“DPWH quick response teams are fast-tracking clearing operations along the affected road sections in the island as we have no alternative routes as of the moment. These roads must be opened soonest for the relief efforts which Catanduanes badly needs right now,” he said.

In agriculture, NDRRMC Spokesperson Mark E. Timbal, in a viber message to reporters, said damage is initially estimated at P1.74 billion across the regions of Bicol, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, and Eastern Visayas.

While authorities take stock of Rolly’s destruction, relief operations are also in full swing. 

“Government assistance provided as of 12NN today… have been estimated to 26.6 million pesos,” Mr. Timbal said.

The movement of goods in most of the typhoon-hit areas has also resumed, according to Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez. Mr. Lopez, in a radio interview with DZBB on Tuesday, said the department’s regional directors have reported that shipping in most affected provinces are back in operation, but some roads are still being cleared.

Ang flow of goods — importante ‘yunay tuluy-tuloy din (— that’s important — is continuous),” he said.

A price freeze on basic necessities and prime commodities is being implemented in areas that have declared a state of calamity.

Fines for traders found violating the price freeze range between P1,000 to P2 million, Mr. Lopez said.

The Energy department also announced a price freeze on household liquified petroleum gas and kerosene in Camariñes Sur after the provincial government declared a state of calamity.

The price freeze started Monday and will be in effect until November 16. In a Viber advisory on Monday evening, the Department of Energy said price rollbacks will be implemented while increases are strictly prohibited within the 15-day period.

This comes a day after the agency declared a price freeze in Cavite, which declared a state of calamity earlier. Other affected provinces have yet to issue similar declarations.

Mr. Lopez also confirmed in a mobile message to reporters that the department will offer micro-financing and livelihood kits for business owners in the areas affected by the typhoon. The funding will come from the Small Business Corporation, he said.

The Department of Labor and Employment, for its part, said it will release funds to employ 5,000 workers who will help in the clearing operations of Catanduanes, where typhoon Rolly first made landfall. “I will send an amount to hire at least 5,000 people to clean the streets and the debris of typhoon Rolly,” Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said in a briefing on Tuesday. ARTA: DON’T ‘WAIT-AND-SEE’The Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), meanwhile, asked the Social Welfare department to proactively process food and cash aid if local governments in typhoon-hit areas have not released assistance within two days.

ARTA Director-General Jeremiah B. Belgica, in a statement on Tuesday, said field or regional offices of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) should monitor disaster-stricken areas and check if sufficient food and cash aid have been distributed.

If none has been extended by the local government within two days, the DSWD field office should automatically send a report to their central office to send food and cash assistance instead of waiting for a request from the local chief executive.

The local government officials concerned will be investigated.

“There will be a presumption of serious neglect of duty and grave misconduct which are both serious offences for administrative cases to be filed with the Office of the Ombudsman and which would merit immediate preventive suspension,” ARTA said.

“In times of calamities, a wait-and-see method is already a thing of the past,” Mr. Belgica said.

In the case of the current calamity, 10 local government heads are due to be summoned by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for reportedly being absent in their respective areas when typhoon Rolly pummeled parts of  the country.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Manahan Año, in his report to President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday night, said two of the mayors are from Bicol, four from Mimaropa, two from the northern Luzon area, and two from the Visayas.

“I cannot give their names yet until investigations are conducted and cases are filed against them,” Mr. Año said.

The officials could face administrative sanctions before the Ombudsman for dereliction of duty and gross negligence.

In another development, a lawmaker on Tuesday defended the need to pass a law that will create a separate department on disaster management following criticisms that it will just worsen an already bloated bureaucracy.

“It (proposed law) does not merely create an agency. It institutionalizes disaster preparedness, response, and future-proofing as a national responsibility with an institutionalized framework,” said Representative Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda, who represents the 2nd District of Albay, one of the provinces in Bicol.

Mr. Salceda is the principal author of House Bill 5989 or the Disaster Resilience Act, which will establish the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) tasked to lead the government’s preparedness, response and recovery programs.

Senators Franklin M. Drilon and Panfilo M. Lacson have said it would be better to strengthen existing agencies rather than setting up the DRR, which could cost the government at least P1.5 billion and billions more for the salaries, capital outlay, and operational expenses. — Gillian M. Cortez, Arjay L. Balinbin, Jenina P. Ibañez, Angelica Y. Yang, Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, and Emmanuel Tupas/PHILSTAR