VP Robredo brings first wave of relief to Odette-struck Surigao City

Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 19 2021 07:27 PM

SURIGAO CITY - Vice President Leni Robredo visited Surigao City Sunday morning to turn over thousands of trucked-in food assistance for residents still reeling from the impact of Typhoon Odette.

Two trucks which came from Cagayan De Oro and Butuan cities brought around 80,000 canned goods, 1,000 sacks of rice, and 10,000 biscuit packs from the Office of the VP and partner donors. 

Bottled water and hygiene kits were also set to be flown from Manila on the same day.

Robredo, who arrived by plane, paid a courtesy call to Surigao City Mayor Ernesto Matugas Jr. for the turnover and received a quick briefing on the city’s situation 3 days since the typhoon struck.

Mobile phone signal and power are still down in Surigao City as well as the majority of the province of Surigao Del Norte.

“I think ‘yong pinakaimportante dito mabalik na kaagad ‘yong communication lines, ‘yong kuryente,” Robredo told media. 

(I think the most important thing here is to restore communication lines right away.)

“Makikita mo maayos ang preparation kasi unimaginable ang damage dito pero very minimal ‘yong casualties saka mga injured. Ito kailangan all the help na pwedeng ibigay ng gobyerno, ng private. Pagbalik ko sa Manila mamaya ‘yon po kaagad ang aasikasuhin namin. Kung mayroon nga lang signal ngayon, makakatawag na kami," she added.

(You can see that they prepared well because the damage is unimaginable but they also have very minimal casualties and injured. They need all the help they can get from the government and private sector. That's what I'll look into as soon as I return to Manila. If only they had phone signal, we could call.)

Robredo promised Matugas to send satellite phones to help speed up communication with the city’s 21 island barangays, which remain cut off from the city’s command center.

A team from the OVP will stay in Surigao City to coordinate the continuous arrival of relief goods.

The vice president also said she would help ensure the quick release of financial assistance for residents to rebuild, saying this was the most immediate need she saw in the area.

“Ang tingin ko ngayon ‘yong pinaka-immediate, siyempre pagkain, pero pinaka-immediate lalo kasi mag-Christmas, sana madaling ma-release ‘yong tulong sa mga tao pampagawa ng bahay. Kasi kung ganito ‘yong damage sa malalaking buildings, siguradong halos walang natira sa tirahan ng mga tao. So lalakarin natin ito, hopefully makalabas kaagad ‘yong financial assistance," Robredo said.

(I think the most immediate need is of course food, but also because it's almost Christmas, I hope we can release aid to help them fix their houses. Because if the big buildings are damaged, then it means the houses were also severely damaged. So we will look into this, hopefully we can immediately release financial aid.)

While more than 20,000 individuals were evacuated for the typhoon, Mayor Matugas said most of their 170,000 residents were heavily affected by the onslaught.

Robredo, who also went to Cebu on Saturday, flew to Siargao Island, Dinagat Island, and Southern Leyte after her visit to Surigao City.

“Pare-pareho ‘yong kailangan, pero I think itong Surigao ang nakita kong halos walang na-spare," she said.

(They all have the same needs, but I think Surigao was the worst hit.)

Robredo added she will enlist the help of the association of electric cooperatives to speed up the restoration of power lines in affected regions, as was done during Typhoons Rolly and Yolanda.

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte also went to the area on Saturday, conducting an aerial survey and meeting the governor and mayor at the airport.