MARIKINA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - President Benigno Aquino III on Saturday visited flood victims in Marikina and Malabon to hand over relief goods.
He was accompanied by Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, and other officials.
Aquino talked to the evacuees, whose numbers have swelled to around 25,000.
Around 8,000 people sought shelter at the H. Bautista Elementary School in Barangay Tumana, while 3,500 others evacuated to the Nangka Elementary School.
Some evacuees started to return to their homes, which are still submerged.
Aquino headed straight to the Nangka Elementary School in Marikina City shortly after arriving from Caticlan in Aklan where he led the inauguration of the renovated Caticlan airport.
"Umasa po kayo nakatutok kami sa inyong lahat. Kung meron mang problema iparating lang ninyo kaagad kay Mayor o kaya kay Congressman at kay Vice Mayor at aaksyunan po natin yan," the President said after distributing relief goods to evacuees.
"Mag-ingat po kayong lahat, hindi pa tapos itong masamang klima natin. (Basta) magtulungan lang tayo, magdamayan tayo (at) maiibsan din ang anumang problemang darating," he added.
The President also visited the Potrero Elementary School in Malabon City and distributed relief goods to evacuees.
Call for help
Meanwhile local government officials in Marikina are appealing for relief assistance, particularly food and clothing for the evacuees.
"We are trying to cope," city Mayor Del de Guzman said. "Iyung distribution, we're trying to perfect ngayon, coordinate all the barangays. We're calling on volunteers to distribute the food."
De Guzman added that more than 90% of evacuees voluntarily fled their homes for safer ground over fears of rising water level at the Marikina river.
"Next 2 days, massive relief operation, provide pagkain hanggang makabalik sila sa bahay nila," he said. "Pagkain, damit kailangan po nila. Basang-basa po sila."
Following lessons from tropical storm "Ondoy," de Guzman credited better coordination for the swift response of residents to evacuations.
A day after raising alert level 3, officials continue to monitor the Marikina river after it rose to 18.2 meters early Saturday, past the 18m critical level.
"It's down to 17.5m. Medyo mahaba lull (ng ulan). Tumigil na rin, hopefully mag-recede na and tubig," De Guzman said.
He said they plan to study the Marikina river in coordination with the national government to improve the city's disaster response and find a solution to Marikina's flood woes.
"Hindi naman pwedeng every year ganito, tatamaan tayo ng ganitong problema. Kailangan magkaroon ng solusyon," he added. - with reports from ANC and Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News