MANILA - Vice President Leni Robredo visited Itbayat in Batanes on Wednesday to personally talk and provide help to quake-hit residents.
Robredo said the state seismology bureau has given residents the clearance to return home but they are worried because of the aftershocks.
"Siguro, hihintayin muna nila na long period of time na hindi nagkakaroon ng aftershock. Pati iyong pagkain, medyo problema din, kasi kailangan pa siyang i-transport dito. Naghahanap talaga ng mga paraan para dumating iyong tulong sa lalong madaling panahon.
(Maybe they need to wait a little longer until there are no more aftershocks. Even the food is problematic because it has to be transported here. We are looking for ways to bring the necessary help here as soon as possible.)
What's urgent, Robredo said, is a temporary shelter for the affected residents.
"Siguro iyong first na pinaka-urgent, na may matulugan na sila na mas maayos. Mayroon naman tayong mga dala na gamit, pero mas pang-temporary siya. Siguro sa lalong madaling panahon, iyong pinaka-mahalaga, maka-build na ng temporary shelters. Na-figure out na din ng Provincial Government kung paano iyong gagawin. Iyon iyong umpisa," Robredo said.
(What's urgent is for them to have a place to sleep in. We brought supplies but these are just temporary. What's important is to build temporary shelters. The provincial government figured out how to do that.)
On Saturday, 2 earthquakes in the magnitude-5 range hit Batanes province. The first registered a 5.4 magnitude quake, around 4:16 a.m. at a depth of 12 kilometers northeast of Itbayat town.
Three hours later, a second one at magnitude-5.9 struck at about 19 kilometers off Itbayat.
At least 5 villages in Itbayat were the hardest hit, according to the the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
Robredo said bringing in food and construction supplies remain a challenge because of the distance.
"Mayroong mga barko na pumupunta, pero it takes a while bago makarating," Robredo said.
(There are ships that sail here, but it takes time to arrive.)
She said some of the supplies they prepared would reach Itbayat in three days.
Flag-carrier Philippine Airlines has offered to fly supplies for free, but only up to Basco. From Basco, Robredo said they still need to transport the goods to Itbayat.
As of Monday, the death toll from the temblors climbed to 9 with about 100 others injured.
"Ngayong umaga, marami kaming mga gamot na dala. Iyon iyong SOS ng Itbayat District Hospital. Iyong problema pa, iyong mga nasaktan hindi kaya ng health services dito." she said.
(The Itbayat District Hospital sent an SOS for medicines and so we brought a lot. But the problem is, the health service cannot accommodate all of those injured.)
The Vice President said some were taken to hospitals in Basco, Tuguegarao in Cagayan, and in Manila.
The Department of Health said the Itbayat District Hospital and Itbayat Municipal Health Office are no longer functional after sustaining damages worth P47 million.
Robredo said the supplies they brought were from the private organizations as her office lacked funds.
But she added that they will hold a fund drive for them as residents worry about where to get the money to rebuild their damage homes.