'Lawin' prompts Arroyo to head home from North


Posted at Aug 26 2008 10:52 PM | Updated as of Aug 27 2008 07:13 AM

President Arroyo was forced to cancel several appointments in the northern province of Ilocos Norte on Wednesday and had to go back to the Manila Tuesday to avoid tropical depression Lawin, which is threatening the general area of Luzon.

The President was supposed to stay overnight at Fort Ilocandia in Laoag City, where she presided over a two-hour cabinet-level meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) Tuesday afternoon. The President arrived in Laoag from an overnight stay in Clark, Pampanga.

She was slated to go to the municipality of Dingras, Ilocos Norte on Wednesday to visit victims of typhoon Karen (international codename Nuri). Ilocos Norte was placed under a state of calamity due to the typhoon, which hit the province last week.

The President and her Cabinet discussed the effects of typhoon Karen in the region. During the meeting, officials stressed that the value-added tax (VAT) was the government's savior when it comes to disaster relief funding, specifically, for assistance to Karen's victims.

Officials also assured the local government that there would be enough funds for the repair of damaged infrastructure.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said the third wave of the "Katas ng VAT" program might have additional funding for financial assistance to farmers.

Yap also said that despite the more than P1 billion damage to the region's crops, the country's food supply would not be affected because the government has already contracted rice imports that will last until the end of the year.

Meanwhile, former first lady Imelda Marcos came to the Cabinet meeting and thanked Mrs. Arroyo in behalf of the Ilocano victims to thank the government for helping in the typhoon's aftermath.

Mrs. Marcos also appealed to government critics for unity with the administration for the sake of the country's welfare.

Tropical depression Lawin is currently in the vicinity of the Bicol region, but is maintaining its strength as it continued on its track toward Central and Southern Luzon. With reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News, and Monet Soriano, ABS-CBN Laoag