DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/8 December) —Typhoon Pablo wrought damage worth nearly P9 billion to agriculture and infrastructure facilities in Mindanao, officials said Friday in a meeting with President Benigno Aquino III at the Davao International Airport here.
Based on the officials’ reports, Pablo damaged P7.938 billion in agriculture and P938 million in infrastructure.
Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson said the biggest infrastructure damage was in Region 11, particularly Boston in Compostela Valley (ComVal), Cateel and Baganga in Davao Oriental.
He added that by Saturday, “all areas will be accessible” except that Baganga will be accessed from Bislig in Surigao del Sur.
Singson cited as the biggest problem the Gov. Teodoro Palma Bridge, a 320-meter long bridge in Caraga Region that partially collapsed, losing its seven of 17 spans to cut logs and debris, resulting in the inaccessibility of Baganga from Mati City.
“The only solution is to finish immediately a detour on the riverbed and at the same time try to remedy and put a temporary bridging material on the damaged structure,” he said.
The temporary bridge will be available by Tuesday next week, Singson said, adding that its reconstruction, however, will take a longer time as the elevation of the bridge will be raised to avoid a repeat of the incident.
Aquino told reporters after the meeting that there is a calamity fund of at least P4 billion, which allots enough budget for the rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure.
He said all roads in Davao Oriental will be accessible by next week, except for the Gov. Palma Gil Bridge which “will take more time for the reconstruction.”
ComVal hardest hit
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala told reporters before the President’s arrival at the airport that the estimated total cost of agricultural damage in Region 11 was P7.938 billion, with ComVal as the hardest hit in the region.
He said out of the total damage cost, the banana industry shared P5.6 billion, based on the initial assessment.
The Department of Agriculture has already tapped banana producers from other regions in Mindanao to supply at least half of the export commitment made by affected banana growers in Region 11.
“We need to help the industry so that our country will not lose face to the international market,” Alcala said, adding he will work an arrangement with the Land Bank of the Philippines to help the affected banana planters.
The DA, he said, will support affected farmers by giving planting materials and seedlings, which will be augmented by accessing tissue laboratories in Regions 12, 10 and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
At the meeting, Alcala reported that other damaged crops include a total of 23,000 hectares (ha) of rice worth P133.404 million; 16,582 ha of corn worth P20.825 million; and 14,779 ha of coconut trees worth P763,309, among others.
Citing reports from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Alcala said the damage made by Pablo reached P24.490 million, mostly fish cages, seedlings, seaweeds and marine culture parks.
He said the department will provide free fingerlings to the affected fishermen.
Alcala pointed out that the DA needs an additional budget as its quick response fund is only less than P300 million.
The President and his Cabinet secretaries, aboard choppers, made a quick visit in typhoon-hit areas Friday and held a meeting at the airport here as soon as they arrived at about 4:40 p.m., at least a couple of hours delayed due to the bad weather condition.
Other department heads with him were Mar Roxas of the Interior and Local Government, Dinky Soliman of Social Welfare and Development, Leila Delima of Justice, Mario Montejo of Science and Technology, Voltaire T. Gazmin of National Defense, and Ricky Carandang of Presidential Communications.
Also attending were Office of the Civil Defense Undersecretary Benito Ramos, also head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council; Maj. Gen. Jorge Segovia, Eastern Mindanao commanding general; Davao del Norte Gov. Rodolfo del Rosario, chair of Davao Regional Peace and Order Council; and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
Aquino assigned Segovia to head the search and rescue operations and to come up with plans to improve the operations. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews)