CAGAYAN DE ORO (4th UPDATE) - President Aquino on Tuesday declared a state of national calamity in the wake of devastation brought by tropical storm Sendong.
The President made the announcement in a briefing with local government and disaster officials in Cagayan de Oro, which bore the brunt of the storm.
Aquino said he wants a study on improving alert and warning systems in times of disasters as well as the relocation of families living in hazard areas.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the President and the Cabinet agreed that the declaration was necessary because supplies are running low in calamity areas.
"We had to impose automatic price controls in these areas until the situation normalizes. Also, by the declaration of state of calamity, our government lending and financial institutions can already grant no-interest loans to the most affected sections of our population," she told ANC.
She said the price freeze on basic necessities could stay up to 60 days. She added that the Department of Trade and Industry will monitor the sale of goods in the calamity areas to ensure there is no profiteering or hoarding.
She said the declaration of calamity would allow the government to give hazard pay to health, science and technological workers in the calamity areas.
Congressman Rufus Rodriguez said the declaration means that calamity funds of the national and local governments and the barangays can now be used for disaster-hit areas "and all agencies now can pour all of their resources in these calamity areas."
Rodriguez said the Government Services Insurance System will suspend collections of premiums while government financing institutions such as GSIS, Social Security System and Pag-IBIG will extend loans to calamity victims.
The lawmaker said the President also ordered the disbursement of P1 billion for the permanent resettlement of residents who lost their homes, P54 million for repairs on the water system and P2 million for medicines.
Under Republic Act No. 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act of 2010, a declaration of calamity means all agencies are mandated to impose remedial measures including the imposition of price ceilings on basic necessities and prime commodities. Agencies must also prevent overpricing, profiteering and hoarding of basic supplies such as medicines and petroleum products.
Local governments may also channel funds for repair and allocate funds for upgrading infrastructure and facilities.
Government financing institutions should also grant loans without interest to victims most affected by disasters.
The President's declaration also enables him to seek international humanitarian assistance as necessary.
The President is visiting Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Dumaguete Tuesday morning to meet with local officials, inspect the damage and provide relief efforts to affected families.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has placed the number of dead from tropical storm Sendong at 957 people. With reports from ANC and radio dzMM