THE LOCAL government of Cotabato, the most affected province in the series of three strong earthquakes that struck central Mindanao in October, has appealed to private groups and individuals delivering relief assistance to coordinate with the incident command center at the provincial office compound in Kidapawan City.

“It is important that we observe system and protocols so our resources can be managed and everyone shall be able to receive,” the provincial government said in a statement.

Back to back earthquakes with magnitude 6.6 and 6.5 shook central Mindanao last week, following another 6.4 tremor on Oct. 16.

“It’s okay for us that you distribute it at the ground but please let us be able to record it so the areas that you won’t be able to cover can also be assigned to other benevolent groups,” it added.

The same call was made by the Office of Civil Defence (OCD)-Davao regional office, which is leading response measures in the affected towns in Davao del Sur and Davao Occidental.

“Significant to this response operation is a 24/7 response mechanism in the region in close coordination with the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils,” said OCD Regional Director Manuel Luis M. Ochotorena.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), meanwhile, gave assurance that “it has enough relief supplies to augment the resources of local government units.”

In a statement on Saturday, DSWD said it has so far provided over P6 million worth of assistance to almost 30,000 families in all the affected areas. “DSWD continues to facilitate the transport of additional relief supplies to the affected regions in coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

A total of 35,661 families composed of over 178,000 individuals have been affected by the earthquakes, based on the Nov. 3 update from the national disaster management council. Thirty evacuation centers have been set up.

There are 21 people confirmed dead from the natural calamity, 432 injured and two missing due to landslides at the foot of Mt. Apo on the side of Davao del Sur.

Defense Secretary Delfin S. Lorenzana has been authorized to lead all relief activities.

Meanwhile, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez said he has ordered all affected local government units (LGUs) to assess the infrastructure damage cost to serve as basis for determining funding assistance that will be needed from the national government.

“We have asked all Treasurers & Assessors of affected LGUs to submit their estimates of the damages so we can determine the amount required,” he said.

He said they expect results on the assessment for government structures in a week, while private establishments will likely take longer.

A financial assistance program will be developed for damaged private properties that are uninsured. This will involve the Social Security System, Government Service Insurance System, Philippine Guarantee Corporation, and the Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG Fund.

Mr. Dominguez also said Land Bank of the Philippines will have their Calamity Rehabilitation Support (CARES) Program in place. — with a report from Gillian M. Cortez