MANILA (UPDATE) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday said he has ordered the creation of a new inter-agency task force to streamline the government’s response and rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of Typhoon Ulysses, and promised the government is working tirelessly to provide assistance to Filipinos who are in need.
In a televised speech, Duterte said he gave the inter-agency task force a timeline to finish rehabilitation efforts and directed them to cut red tape for faster distribution of aid.
“I directed them to streamline para madali ‘yong rehabilitation efforts affected by the typhoon. Pangalawa, itong task force ng different agencies. Lahat itong halos ng mga ahensya ng gobyerno kasali dito… binibigyan ko sila ng timeline para gumawa ng mga hakbang na 'yan na walang delay at i-cut yung red tape para mabilis ang takbo ng tulong sa tao,” Duterte said.
(All of the agencies are in the task force. I gave them a timeline for them to make steps ensuring there will not be any delay in the distribution of aid.)
Video courtesy of PTV
He gave the address as historic flooding hit the Cagayan Valley, with residents trapped and desperately appealing for help atop roofs overnight in the wake of Typhoon Ulysses.
It came just a day after similar scenes in parts of Metro Manila and neighboring Rizal, which saw the worst flooding in years because of the storm, the 21st to hit the country this year.
Help is on the way, he said, and the Philippine Coast Guard and the military have been deployed for rescue operations.
“Dito sila nagta-trabaho round the clock.. [ang] ibang mayroong maitutulong, nand'yan. Ang Coast Guard naman may mga eroplano diyan sa area… 'Yung search and rescue mayroon tayong mga support forces din. Ang Army has been deployed, Coast Guard naka-deploy sa Region 2,” said Duterte.
(They are working round the clock. All those who could give help is there. The Coast Guard has helicopters in the area. The search and rescue has support forces. The Coast Guard has already been deployed in Region 2.)
He added that he already sent 2 helicopters to rescue residents in Cagayan. More military choppers from Metro Manila, meanwhile, will be sent to the region if still needed.
"Kaya natin ito. Ilang pahirap na ng panahon. Babangon din tayo. Mahirap pero... Alam niyo naman ang mga Pilipino, alam niyong tumindig uli,” said Duterte, who has earlier been criticized for absence in national emergencies.
(We can get through these trying times. We will rise. It is difficult but I know that Filipinos could get up once again.)
Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, Duterte's former aide who continues to join the President's outings whil already in the chamber, said he and the chief executive will visit Cagayan province to bring aid and assess the situation in the flood-hit province.
Ulysses, the 21st tropical cyclone to enter the country this year pummeled Luzon Wednesday night until Thursday, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake, just as the island reeled from earlier storms, including Super Typhoon Rolly.
As of Saturday, "Ulysses" has killed 32, while 65,000 families or over 232,000 individuals are staying in evacuation centers, according to the the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
More details to follow.