SouthCot sending P1.5M in relief goods and coffins to ‘Sendong’ victims

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/20 Dec) – Responding to pleas for help, the provincial government of South Cotabato is sending P1.5 million worth of relief goods, mostly rice, and coffins to victims of tropical storm “Sendong.”

South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. said the province has earmarked P1.5 million in assistance to flood victims in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, where over 800 people have been killed due to flashfloods triggered by the typhoon.

Pingoy said they will use the funds to purchase around 1,000 bags of rice, which would then be repacked at five kilos each.

“We’re targeting to send 10,000 packs of rice within the week,” the governor said at the Christmas celebration of the South Cotabato capitol press corps on Monday night.

“We have a bumper palay harvest in the province and so the assistance to the flood victims will, in effect, also help our farmers [because we will buy from them],” he said.

Pingoy called for volunteers among residents for the repacking of the rice stocks, which is expected to be delivered to the provincial capitol compound in Koronadal City today (Tuesday).

For the coffins, Pingoy said the province has about 10 to 15 pieces in stock.

The city government of General Santos, meantime, has also approved the immediate release of P1 million as contribution to the relief operations.

Mayor Darlene Antonino Custodio said they will be sending P500,000 each to the two local governments units within the next few days. She said the funds would be taken out from the budget of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

In Sarangani Province, Rep. Emmanuel Pacquiao has also committed to deliver potable water, rice and other food items for the typhoon victims in the two cities.

Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez on Monday said they will be sending P500,000 worth of rice to the victims of the floods in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.

He also appealed to those who want to help to donate blankets, used clothes, toothbrushes and others and drop them at the provincial capitol gymnasium in Alabel town.

The donated goods from the two provinces will reportedly be transported on Thursday.

Dominguez said that courier company Fast Cargo has volunteered to transport the donations for free.

In a related development, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has heeded the request of the Philippine government for immediate food, non-food items and logistics support in the ongoing relief efforts to Sendong’s victims.

In coordination with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Philippine Air Force, WFP immediately dispatched 3 tons of high-energy biscuits to the affected areas to assist 7,800 of the most vulnerable people who cannot easily cook food, WFP said in a statement.

In addition, WFP has already mobilized and delivered key items needed for the relief operation, including water tanks and a mobile storage tent.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of lives and displacement as a result of the storm and flash floods,” said Stephen Anderson, WFP country director. “We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the Filipino people who have suffered from the floods, lost family members or friends.”

The government has specifically requested WFP emergency food and non-food items – such as blankets, water tanks, tarpaulins and tents – for over 74,000 people in the areas of Cagayan de Oro City, El Salvador City and Kinoguitan of Misamis Oriental, and Iligan City, Lanao del Norte, as well as logistics support to help transport government relief items to affected communities in Northern Mindanao.

Specific WFP support will be determined by the results of ongoing joint assessments with the government, UN and other humanitarian agencies, Anderson said.

“Our swift response to support the government’s relief effort has been helped by the fact that we have existing operations in [Southwestern] Mindanao focusing on populations who have been affected by conflict and natural disasters,” he said

Since 2006, WFP has had two offices with 70 staff in Cotabato City and Iligan City. (Bong S. Sarmiento and Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)