INFRASTRUCTURE DAMAGE cost from the July 27 earthquakes in Itbayat, Batanes is so far estimated at P292.85 million, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

This assessment covers 978 houses, public building, roads, and slope protection structures.

The Department of Transportation (DoTr), meanwhile, has vowed to fast-track the repair, expansion, and development of both air and sea ports in Batanes.

Following an inspection last Monday, Transport Secretary Arthur P. Tugade assured local officials that port repairs will commence immediately.

In the meantime, the Philippine Coast Guard has been directed to deploy rubber boats to Itbayat, Basco, and Sabang islands.

“We immediately conducted steps to secure ease of movement of goods and people so that the recovery of the province will also come in swiftly,” Mr. Tugade said in a statement.

DoTr said among the work identified is the ongoing runway extension project at the Itbayat Airport will be reconsidered for up to 1,500 meters to improve viability for commercial, security and disaster relief operations.

The Basco Airport will also be studied for runway extension.

For sea transport, a new location will be surveyed for the Port of Mauyen, which has been made more difficult to access due to landslides triggered by the earthquakes.

The Valanga Port, the only seaport that links Basco and Itbayat, will be expanded to include a back-up area, berthing facility, and a passenger shed.

Meanwhile, China has donated P10 million to the earthquake victims.

“The Chinese government expresses its deepest sympathy and condolences to those affected families and decided to donate 10 million pesos to aid the victims and support the Philippine government in its efforts to rebuild Batanes and help local residents return to normal life,” the Chinese Embassy to the Philippines said in a statement on Wednesday.

The tremors left nine dead and 64 others injured. It has also displaced some 805 out of 911 families, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) reported as of July 31. — with Charmaine A. Tadalan