Defense chief: Quake-hit areas in Mindanao already out of calamity funds

Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 06 2019 08:35 PM

Donations continue to pour in and out of the Makilala Municipal Hall in Cotabato on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, days after the series of earthquakes that rocked the province and neighboring areas within October. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA—The quake-hit areas of Mindanao have run out of calamity funds, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Wednesday after he visited Cotabato with other cabinet officials. 

“Ang request nila ay 'yung mabigyan sila ng funding para sa mga repair ng mga bahay na nasira, saka bahay na bago para sa mga relocation,” Lorenzana said.

(Their request was funding for repairs of their destroyed houses, and new homes in relocations.)

Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, however, said the government and concerned agencies have enough funds to finance the relief, rehabilitation, and recovery of quake-hit areas, adding there is no need to ask for foreign assistance.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, meanwhile, announced the temporary refocusing of the Department of the Interior and Local Government's (DILG) priorities from anti-insurgency to humanitarian assistance.

The national government is presently in a massive government-wide campaign to end the communist insurgency by the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, ranging from direct military action to local governments depriving the New People’s Army (NPA) of access to its mass base, and campaigns to actively pursue even the perceived legal front organizations linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“Sa ngayon, nakita natin na mas importante muna matugunan to save lives pa,” Año said. 

(Right now, it's more important to save lives.)

He clarified, however, that while military units are helping relief efforts, the military's anti-insurgency work has not ceased. 

“Hindi naman ibig sabihin nu'n totally stop. 'Yung military at PNP 24 hours 'yan, tuloy pa rin 'yan. 'Yung lang effort ng LGU (local government units) muna ay mai-redirect natin,” Año said.

(That does not mean the military's anti-insurgency operations will totally stop. The military and the PNP are still on alert 24 hours a day. We just changed the focus of efforts of LGU.)

Jalad told reporters they are monitoring reports of anti-government groups attempting to use the calamity as an opportunity to shame the government.

He said he even doubted that the circulating images that show families and groups asking for aid by the roadside are “staged.” Netizens have criticized his comment as "insensitive."

Apart from immediate aid such as food and shelter, there is now a growing clamor for help to rebuild destroyed homes and relocate those whose homes and areas are no longer safe to return to.