OVERALL DAMAGE to infrastructure and the agricultural sector has reached more than P3.56 billion while 554,316 people have been displaced by typhoon Rai, locally named Odette, based on the government’s running assessment of the trail of destruction left the by strongest storm to hit the country this year.
The number of deaths verified by the national disaster management agency stood at 177 as of Wednesday, but the police on Monday said it had so far logged 373 reports of people who died. Another 38 people are missing and 275 injured.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said on Wednesday that the damage caused by Odette to public infrastructure hit P585.8 million.
Broken down, a P231.9-million damage was recorded in Region 4-B or Mimaropa, composed of the provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan.
Damage in Western Visayas was P35.5 million, Eastern Visayas had P173.4 million, and P145 million in Region 13 or Caraga, which includes Surigao City and Siargao.
“Other regions have yet to submit report on estimated damage to roads, bridges, and flood-control structures,” DPWH noted.
The department’s top official estimated on Tuesday that the damage caused by typhoon Odette to infrastructure and agriculture in Southern Leyte, located in Eastern Visayas, could reach P3 billion.
“Damage here could reach P3 billion,” DPWH Acting Secretary and Southern Leyte Rep. Roger G. Mercado told DZMM TeleRadyo in an interview.
He said the estimate covers “infrastructure [such as] public buildings, private buildings, and houses,” as well as “agriculture and fisheries.”
The department has so far reopened 34 roads in the typhoon-hit areas.
Twelve roads were still closed to traffic, including Puerto Princesa North Road, Tagbilaran North Road, and Cebu-Toledo Wharf Road.
“An immediate response fund of P100 million was released for the clearing and response operations,” the department said.
TELECOM AND POWER
Meanwhile, PLDT, Inc. and its wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. said they had already reconnected Surigao City.
“The group is also first to restore wireless services in other municipalities in Surigao del Norte including Tubod, Bad-as, and Taganito in Claver,” the companies said in an e-mailed statement.
Globe Telecom, Inc. said the provinces of Antique, Biliran, Guimaras, and all of Samar are the latest areas where it had successfully restored services.
“Globe is also the first to restore network services in Del Carmen, Siargao Island, San Jose in Dinagat Islands, Lipata Seaport, Surigao City and Surigao Airport,” it said in a statement.
In the power sector, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) said it has estimated an initial P373.12 million worth of damage based on reports from 10 electric cooperatives.
The cost is expected to increase when all affected cooperatives submit their reports.
There were at least 79 cooperatives affected by the typhoon, of which 46 are now under normal operations, 12 have partial power interruption, and seven still have total power loss. The rest have yet to submit an update.
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has ordered the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) and distribution utilities in affected areas to expedite power restoration and to ease electricity bill collection.
“The directive will also be applied to NGCP, Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM), generation companies, and the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM),” ERC Chairperson and Chief Executive Agnes Vicenta T. Devanadera said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Petron Corp., a subsidiary of San Miguel Corp., assured the public that it has sufficient fuel inventory in the Visayas and Mindanao.
“Our biggest challenge however is quickly and safely reopening damaged service stations. Despite limitations, all our teams are working hard to address this,” Petron President and Chief Executive Officer Ramon S. Ang said.
Agricultural damage hit P2.6 billion, affecting 34,747 farmers and fishermen, and over 60,451-hectares of farmland, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said.
The volume of production loss was estimated 87,640 metric tons.
These losses were reported in 10 regions — Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao, and Caraga.
The provinces of Batangas, Palawan, and Surigao del Sur were also reported to be experiencing problems in food transport and distribution.
Depending on the extent of damage, it will take a while for the agricultural sector to recover, according to Roehlano M. Briones, a senior research fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies.
“There’s no amount of quick turnaround that you can do within the quarter. I would say it will take a quarter to a year to recover,” he said.
“What takes long is the replacement of tree crops, and the restoration of infrastructure and irrigation damage,” he added in Filipino.
However, Mr. Briones said Odette’s damage will likely not impact the Agriculture department’s production growth target of 2% for the year.
“Considering the whole of agriculture, P2-billion damage is still not big enough to cause a big change in growth targets. There’s no need to change the growth target at the national level if your range of damage is just a few billion pesos,” he said.
The DA will provide at least P1.75 billion to assist farmers and fishermen, along with the distribution of seeds for various crops, fingerlings, and drugs and medicine for livestock.
Meanwhile, insurance companies have been instructed to speed up processing claims related to typhoon Odette, the Insurance Commission said.
The commission in a circular signed Monday said all insurance and reinsurance companies, pre-need companies, mutual benefit associations, and health maintenance organizations must streamline company procedures to quickly process claims related to the calamity.
The organizations were also ordered to relax the timeline for completing claim requirements and improve services for customer claims.
The commission said there may be more claims against insurance companies and other organizations it regulates as the death toll and damage assessment increase.
Insurance Commissioner Dennis B. Funa in a press release on Wednesday said the guidelines will help facilitate immediate processing of these claims.
“It is our hope that the circular letter will aid our fellow kababayans to ease the burden of recovering from the devastating typhoon and that, in the truly Filipino spirit of bayanihan, our regulated entities will follow the direction provided by this commission,” Mr. Funa said.
SPECIAL CUSTOMS LANE
As international assistance pour in, the Customs bureau has ordered ports nationwide to set up one-stop shops that will facilitate the speedy processing of goods intended for typhoon survivors.
“The OSS shall be available 24 hours and seven days a week. It shall be responsible for coordinating with other concerned government agencies in the processing of donated relief goods to facilitate its immediate release,” the bureau said in a statement on Wednesday.
The Foreign Affairs department has also organized a national OSS to handle all concerns relating to donations.
Among those that have recently delivered or pledged relief and recovery assistance include the European Union (EU), which allocated €1.7 million (P95.99 million) in humanitarian funding to cover provisions of food, water, shelter, and other urgently needed household items, as well as cash grants to victims.
The EU said its partner humanitarian organizations will also strengthen healthcare services, including hygiene promotion to mitigate the spread of waterborne diseases.
The United States, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), provided P10 million to support communities devastated by the typhoon.
“The United States is providing P10 million in immediate support, including food and shelter for communities affected by Typhoon Odette,” US Embassy in the Philippines Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Heather Variava said in a statement.
USAID is partnering with Action Against Hunger to provide food, water, hygiene supplies, and other relief items to Surigao del Norte and Dinagat Islands.
Korean Ambassador Kim Inchul, who met with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. to discuss assistance to typhoon-hit areas, said his government will provide $2 million (P100.27 million) for humanitarian assistance and $50,000 (P2.5 million) worth of in-kind donation.
Other pledges came from: New Zealand, $500,000 (P16.9 million); Hungary €54,000 (P3.05 million); Ireland, €250,000 (P14.12 million) through World Food Programme Philippines and United Nations Philippines; and Singapore, $60,000 (P3 million) as seed money to support the Singapore Red Cross’ public fundraising
Other countries that have earlier announced assistance include Japan, China, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, Philippine senators on Wednesday refuted the claim of President Rodrigo R. Duterte that government funds have been depleted due to the pandemic, citing sources that can be tapped for the typhoon emergency response.
“I am saddened by the President’s statement that the government has no money to assist the typhoon victims,” said Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon in a Viber message.
He said the Finance department can do a “cash sweep” of released but undisbursed funds parked in the bank accounts of national government agencies and government-owned and -controlled corporations.
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, Sr. suggested that the NDRRMC be immediately convened so its Cabinet members can mobilize Quick Response Funds from different agencies and other appropriations.
Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara, who chairs the Senate finance committee, said that while it may be true that this year’s calamity funds have already been used up, next year’s budget may be tapped by the national government as soon as the President signs the 2022 expenditure program, which is expected next week.
“Over P20 billion may be used to help victims (of the typhoon) and those who lost their homes and livelihood,” he said in a Viber message in Filipino.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that as of Dec. 21, there were 139,000 damaged houses across central and southern Philippines. — Arjay L. Balinbin, Marielle C. Lucenio, Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson, Jenina P. Ibañez, and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan